In 1970 I went to an “open day” at Maningrida in Central Arnhem Land, which back then was a Government settlement established to facilitate policies of assimilation for indigenous people. Not all indigenous people were persuaded to leave their country and traditional lifestyles. Mandark, born around 1915, was one such man who stayed in his country with his four wives and twenty five children. The family did however trade with white people — the women made beautiful baskets and dillybags and Mandark and his sons painted on sheets of stringybark and made spears and didgeridoos. On this first trip to Maningrida I visited the community art centre and came away with the painting above. The description pencilled on the back was: Nawaran, snake of the rock country with its eggs. Artist: Mandark. Tribe: Dangbon. It was about six years later that scientists caught up with Mandark’s advanced taxonomy, and gave the scientific name Morelia oenpelliensis to this impressive creature. Because it is a creature endemic to the rugged and remote sandstone of West Arnhem Land, it wasn’t noticed by science until the 1970s. It grows to more than 4 metres and is a fairly slim snake but it can — in true python style — unhinge its jaws and swallow a wallaby. Nawaran is a stealth hunter and waits patiently for an opportunity to take warm blooded prey — possums and small macropods amongst the rocks and flying foxes high in paperbark trees. It holds its prey in its jaws while it squeezes with its coils and asphyxiates its prey. I’ll write more of Mandark — without doubt one of most extraordinary people I have ever met.

226 years after the English arrived to colonise Australia, 75 per cent of Australia’s species are still unknown to science. This informed estimate has been made by Jo Harding, the manager of Bush Blitz, a program supported by federal and state government agencies and research institutions, which documents plants and animals around Australia, leading to the discovery of hundreds of new species.
Ms Harding’s claim that about 75 per cent of Australia’s biodiversity is unknown is based on a 2009 report published by the federal environment department. It aggregates information from a large number of sources and previous studies to calculate the number of species already discovered and estimate the number of species yet to be discovered both around the world and in Australia.
It determined that Australia had 147,579 “accepted described species”, 26 per cent of its estimated total Australian species.
The Bush Blitz claim and the 2009 report were put under the microscope by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Fact Check researchers (http://abc.net.au/news/5649858). They gave it the thumbs up as did Sir David Attenborough who commented: “This report will provide a crucial reference point for all those who are acting to protect our planet for future generations.”
Jo Harding said: “We’ve discovered 700 new species so far, that’s over the last approximately four years, and we’re still counting.”
The 2009 report casts a wide net in defining biodiversity. It covers all types of plants (including algae) and fungi as well as vertebrates (such as mammals, reptiles, fish and birds) and invertebrates (such as insects and octopuses) in both marine and land environments.
PHOTOGRAPH: My photograph shows a spectacular beastie found about 12 years ago at Kabulwarnamyo in western Arnhem Land. I took the photograph to the CSIRO in Darwin for indentification and was told “sorry, no species ID and the genus has the working title of #10!”
However, Northern Territory entomologist Michael Braby advises that four years ago a number of related specimens have finally been sorted down to the species level and the work published by Rentz et al. in the journal Zootaxa 2417:1-39 (2010) with the title “Studies in Australian Tettigoniidae: Australian agraeciine katydids, two new genera from northern Australia (Tettigoniidae; Conocephalinae; Agraeciini)”.
Picking which species that my bug belongs to from the taxonomic description is not easy and Michael’s opinion is “it looks like Armadillagraecia mataranka, but I would need to carefully check it against the paper.”
Michael also comments on the decline of taxonomy as a field of science.
“Taxonomy, especially traditional taxonomy in museums around the world, is in deep trouble. The field become unfashionable about 20-30 years ago, unfortunately before the task of documenting the planets biodiversity had been completed. Paradoxically, this is occurring at a time when it is needed most, when biodiversity is in crisis, and the need to be able to systematically catalogue and identify animals and plants has never been more urgent.”
Not sure if AM has a Bininj Gunwok name. I’ll have to ask ask.

226 years after the English arrived to colonise Australia, 75 per cent of Australia’s species are still unknown to science. This informed estimate has been made by Jo Harding, the manager of Bush Blitz, a program supported by federal and state government agencies and research institutions, which documents plants and animals around Australia, leading to the discovery of hundreds of new species.
Ms Harding’s claim that about 75 per cent of Australia’s biodiversity is unknown is based on a 2009 report published by the federal environment department. It aggregates information from a large number of sources and previous studies to calculate the number of species already discovered and estimate the number of species yet to be discovered both around the world and in Australia.
It determined that Australia had 147,579 “accepted described species”, 26 per cent of its estimated total Australian species.
The Bush Blitz claim and the 2009 report were put under the microscope by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Fact Check researchers (http://abc.net.au/news/5649858). They gave it the thumbs up as did Sir David Attenborough who commented: “This report will provide a crucial reference point for all those who are acting to protect our planet for future generations.”
Jo Harding said: “We’ve discovered 700 new species so far, that’s over the last approximately four years, and we’re still counting.”
The 2009 report casts a wide net in defining biodiversity. It covers all types of plants (including algae) and fungi as well as vertebrates (such as mammals, reptiles, fish and birds) and invertebrates (such as insects and octopuses) in both marine and land environments.
PHOTOGRAPH: My photograph shows a spectacular beastie found about 12 years ago at Kabulwarnamyo in western Arnhem Land. I took the photograph to the CSIRO in Darwin for indentification and was told “sorry, no species ID and the genus has the working title of #10!”
However, Northern Territory entomologist Michael Braby advises that four years ago a number of related specimens have finally been sorted down to the species level and the work published by Rentz et al. in the journal Zootaxa 2417:1-39 (2010) with the title “Studies in Australian Tettigoniidae: Australian agraeciine katydids, two new genera from northern Australia (Tettigoniidae; Conocephalinae; Agraeciini)”.
Picking which species that my bug belongs to from the taxonomic description is not easy and Michael’s opinion is “it looks like Armadillagraecia mataranka, but I would need to carefully check it against the paper.”
Michael also comments on the decline of taxonomy as a field of science.
“Taxonomy, especially traditional taxonomy in museums around the world, is in deep trouble. The field become unfashionable about 20-30 years ago, unfortunately before the task of documenting the planets biodiversity had been completed. Paradoxically, this is occurring at a time when it is needed most, when biodiversity is in crisis, and the need to be able to systematically catalogue and identify animals and plants has never been more urgent.”
Not sure if AM has a Bininj Gunwok name. I’ll have to ask ask.