Overview and Investigation of Australian Aboriginal Lizard Traps

Susie Cramp, Sheila Murray, Lynette Knapp, Harley Coyne, Aden Eades, Alison Lullfitz, Peter Speldewinde, Stephen D. Hopper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Landscape management by First Nations Peoples often involves sustainably enhancing environments to increase availability of resources. Granite outcrops, globally, can exhibit such modifications. Propped-up rock slabs constructed by First Nations Peoples for catching reptiles (lizard traps) are a widespread, overlooked, and threatened cultural component of granites of the Southwest Australian Floristic Region. Our team, which includes three Merningar/Menang Elders (co-authors LK, HC, and AE), has undertaken a systematic and culturally informed review of the current scientific literature and Traditional Ecological Knowledge with the subsequent aim of using that data to raise awareness and advocate for lizard trap protection. We collated information and identified knowledge gaps regarding lizard traps: their definition, function, distribution, related Traditional Ecological Knowledge, threats, and conservation. Elders explained that lizard traps do not restrain or contain animals. They provide reptiles with shelter from aerial predators, and opportunities for basking, shade, and foraging. They work as a trap because startled reptiles run beneath a lizard trap, are surrounded by people, and extracted. All 317 published lizard trap records are in southwest Western Australia, across Noongar, Yamaji, and Ngadju lands. Ten papers expressed concern over threats to lizard traps. Overall, lizard traps highlight how sustainable ecosystem enhancement requires deep knowledge of the land and culture that is embedded in the ecological system. Further cross-cultural ecological studies are required to document, understand, and protect these culturally significant structures, and the Traditional Ecological Knowledge and biodiversity that they sustain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-416
Number of pages17
JournalJournal Of Ethnobiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2022


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