A film documenting community-based dugong tracking in Northern Australia
Li-Maramaranja: Dugong Hunters of Excellence is a documentary film about community-based dugong tracking in Yanyuwa saltwater country, an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in the Gulf of Carpentaria named after its Traditional Owners, the Yanyuwa people who now manage their country the Li-Anthawirriyarra (people of the sea) Sea Ranger Unit. The Gulf of Carpentaria is home to approximately 3,390 dugongs and is probably the most important area for dugong in the Northern Territories.
The film shows Li-Anthawirriyarra Sea Rangers joining forces with marine researchers, including Dugong MOU Technical Advisor Dr. Chris Cleguer, to catch and tag ten dugongs in order to better understand dugong behavior, movement and population estimates in the Northern Territory.
The film takes its name from a traditional song shared by Yanyuwa elders. Yanyuwa people have a strong connection with dugongs through knowledge, stories, ceremony and song. Shaun Evans, one of the Li-Anthawirriyarra rangers who features in the film, describes how he has always felt connected to the natural environment of his home;
“I grew up that way, out in the bush and out on the sea and out on the water. That’s why I love my job, I get paid to go out and do what I really love, being out on country and trying to look after it. For the Yanyuwa people, we live with dugongs by the sea and we know that when there’s dugong there, the country is healthy”
The data collected through this project has showed that these dugongs don’t stray far from Yanyuwa country, with Dr Rachel Groom reflecting that they seem to love where they live;
“There are some dugongs that have been tagged and they can do 800km trips in matter of a few days and we certainly didn’t find that.”
The film is available to watch online.