Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Note - Understanding the country
Parks Australia, 2009
Understanding the country
When Anangu look at the landscape we pay close attention to landforms, soils, plants, animals, water supply and fire history. We understand the country. We know how to use plants and can read the tracks of animals We understand the significance of weather changes. Our knowledge and our responsibility to care for the country and its wildlife come Tjukurpa.
'Anangu don't go by Piranpa dates, we only go by our own seasons... we know which fruits and foods we get during our seasons - that's what is important to us' - traditional owner
Piriyakutu/piriya-piriya is when the piriya comes, a warm steady wind from the north and west (usually around August and September). Animals breed and food plants flower, fruit and seed. Hibernating reptiles come out. Sometimes this season is called kalinykalinypa when the kalinykalinypa (honey grevillea) flowers come out. Anangu can then make sweet drinks from the nectar of the flower.
Mai wiyaringkupai/kuli is the really hot time when food finishes (around December). There are gangkali (storm clouds) and lightning, but little rain. Itjanu/inuntji is when utawari, (overcast clouds) usually bring rain (January to March). Lots of food plants flower at this time.
Wanitjunkupai is the beginning of the cold weather when reptiles hibernate. Tjuntalpa clouds start around April, but usually don't bring rain. They come from the south mainly by westerly winds. Tjuntalpa sit low over the hills until late in the day.
Anangu are teaching rangers and scientists about the animals and plants of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Showing them where to look, telling them about animals and the kind of burrows they have, what they eat, everything.
Wari is the cold time (late May, June and July). There is nyinnga (frost) and kulyarpa (mist or dew) every morning, but little rain.
Anangu recognise habitats in our own way. We understand the relationships between the land, plants and animals. We know when and where to find particular foods.
Puli (rocky areas, gorges, stony slopes) - plants that can survive in shallow barren soils are found here and Anangu burn around puli to protect it from wildfires. Many animals come to drink or shelter here, and return to other habitats to graze and breed. Kanyala (euro), waru (black-footed rock wallaby), tjilkamata (echidna) and arutju (fat-tailed antechinus) are all found here. Many bird species are attracted to the water in rocky areas after rain including ipuru (spinifex pigeon).
Karu (creekline and runoff plains) - Anangu usually find good supplies of water here and although the creeks are normally dry, waterholes can retain water for months. People dig for water along the creek beds and collect grass seeds such as kaltu-kaltu (native millet) and wangunu (naked woolybutt). Anangu also collect firewood and timber for carving tools from the muur-muurpa (bloodwood) and itara (river red gum).
Puti (open woodlands) - after good rain, where the ground is hard and sometimes stony, kapi tjintjira (freshwater claypans) are formed and animals come to drink from these. Puti wanari is flat country where there is thick wanari (mulga) and the ground story can be spinifex or other grasses. After rain many food plants are available and tjala (honey ants) start making their nests. When minu (bilby) were around they could be found eating lots of maku (witchetty grubs) and tjala in puti country. Malu (red kangaroo) come here when good feed is available whereas kanyala (euro) use the rocky areas. There are many animals that use burrows including pintjatanpa (rabbit), mingkiri (mice and small dasyurids) and tarkawara (spinifex hopping-mouse).
Pila (spinifex plains) - is the most common habitat in the park and many kurkara (desert oak) grow in pila. When tjanpi (spinifex) is old, with a ring in the middle, Anangu burn it to allow new growth. Tree and shrubs such as kurkara, watarka (umbrella bush) and muur-muurpa (bloodwood) provide seeds for people and animals to eat. Many plants provide nectar and honey such as the common kaliny-kalinypa. Some of the animals of the pila are tarkawara (spinifex hopping-mouse), mutinka (skink lizards) and muluny-mulunypa (striped skinks), kuniya (woma python), lungkata (Centralian blue-tongued lizard), tjakura (great desert skink), kalaya (emu), kipara (bustard), tuuka (fox) and ngaya (cat).
Tali (sand dunes) - this habitat is very fragile. Spinifex and green shrubs such as pukara (desert quondong) and watarka grow here. Plants like walkalpa (emu poison bush) and nyitu (nut bush) grow on the sand dunes. In the morning you can see networks of tracks on the sand dunes. Many of the animals of the tali protect themselves by burrowing into the sand. Generally, the small mammals that live in the pila are also found in tali. Itjaritjari (marsupial mole) is likely to come to the surface after rain. Some reptiles, particularly some of the mutinka (small skinks) live specifically on the sand dunes and frogs lie buried on the moist side of the dunes, emerging only after rain.
Nyaru (recently burnt areas) - pila and tali become nyaru after they are burnt, with similar animals in both habitats. Animals like nyaru because many food plants become plentiful such as kampurarpa (desert raisin) and wiriny-wirinypa (bush tomato), edible seed, grasses and succulents. Animals such as tarkawara prefer the nyaru for foraging while others such as tjantjalka (military dragon) move away until the spinifex cover comes back.