The research presented here focused on the ethnozoology of frogs as viewed by two Aboriginal communities: Gängan and Gapuwiyak, which are both located in north-east Arnhem Land (Yolngu territory), Northern Territory. The aim of this research was to record traditional Aboriginal knowledge about frogs as viewed by Dhalwangu, a Yolngu clan. Particular emphasis was placed on amphibian traditions and beliefs, local nomenclature, and natural history as conceived by the Dhalwangu. A full understanding of the symbolism of Garkman, the frog, and its relatedness to other aspects of the culture is only beginning to be realised by the researchers.
Traditional ecological knowledge illustrates how Aboriginal people have learned to survive and live in their environment, but the gradual loss of such knowledge (especially with the death of senior men and elders) and the devastation of ecosystems by invasive pests threaten local traditional knowledge. For example, the recent spread of the introduced cane toad (Bufo marinus) into Yolngu land is expected to have some impact on native species of frog and the broader-ecosystem which they inhabit, but also cultural effects, including loss of traditional food and alteration of totem species. This paper describes the significance of frogs to the Gängan and Gapuwiyak communities, assesses frog biodiversity in Yolngu territory according to indigenous knowledge, attempts to document the changes in frog biodiversity currently occurring as a result of environmental impacts such as growing populations of the cane toad, and points to the cultural significance of these changes.