Whilst not part of Western Australia, there have been couple of expeditions to Christmas Island by WASG members.  Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean and is in fact closer to Indonesia than Australia although Western Australia is the closest Australian State.

An article titled The History of Christmas Island and the Management of its Karst Features gives a great intro to the island

Below are some of the images taken on the 1987 expedition to the Island.  More pictures are in the Members Only Images section of the web site

img0007

Vanda Longman in the streamway of Daniel Roux Cave

 

img0040

A helictite in Lost Lake Cave.

 

img0010Brian Vine in a well decorated cave on Christmas Island

 

img0013

The main chamber in Bishop's Cave. This cave was named after Roy Bishop who did a considerable amount of early cave exploration on the Island.

 

img0002A richly coloured pool in Daniel Roux Cave

 

img0004Vanda Longman in the upper level chamber in Daniel Roux Cave

 

img0047Brian Vine next to The Phantasm in Phantasmagoria in Lost Lake Cave on Christmas Island

 

img0088David Longman (foreground), Lucinda Coates (midground) and Jim Fyfe (distance) enjoying the "jungle" of Christmas Island. Jim was cutting track at the front of the group

BY. Rauleigh J. Webb, Past ASF CO-CONVENOR OF THE CONSERVATION COMMISSION

INTRODUCTION

Caves are an uncommon geological resource and the minerals that are deposited therein may be rare and occur in unique forms of great beauty which are irreplaceable if destroyed. Also irreplaceable are the archeological resources in caves which are of great scientific and historic value. It is further found that the organisms which live in caves are unusual and of limited numbers; that many are rare and endangered species; and that caves are a natural conduit for groundwater flow and are highly subject to water pollution, thus having far-reaching effects transcending man's property boundaries. It is therefore declared to be the policy and the intent of this legislation to protect these unique and cultural resources.

DEFINITIONS

(A) "Cave" means any naturally occurring void, cavity, recess, or system of interconnecting passages beneath the surface of the earth or within a cliff or ledge including natural subsurface water and drainage systems, but not including any mine, tunnel, aqueduct, or other manmade excavation, which is large enough to permit a person to enter. The word "cave" includes or is synonymous with cavern, sinkhole, natural pit, grotto, and rock shelter.

(B) "Show Cave" means any cave utilized by the owner for the purposes of exhibition to the general public as a profit or nonprofit enterprise, wherein a fee is collected for entry.

(C) "Gate" means any structure or device located to limit or prohibit access or entry to any cave.

(D) "Sinkhole" means a closed topographic depression or basin, generally draining underground, including but not restricted to, a doline, uvala, blind valley, or sink.

(E) "Person" or "persons" means any individual, partnership, firm, association , trust, or corporation or other legal entity,

(F) "Owner" means a person who owns title to land where a cave is located, including a person who owns title to a leasehold estate in such land, and specifically including the State and any of its agencies, departments, boards, bureaus, commissions, of authorities, as well as counties, municipalities, and other political subdivisions of the State.

(G) "Speleothem" means a natural mineral formation or deposit occurring in a cave. This includes or is synonymous with stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, anthodites, shawls, oolites (cave pearls), cave coral, columns, flowstone, gypsum flowers and needles. Speleothems. are commonly composed of calcite, gypsum, halite, epsomite, aragonite, celestite, and other similar minerals.

(H) "Speleogen" means an erosional feature of the cave boundary and includes or is synonymous with anastomoses, scallops, rills, flutes, spongework, and pendants.

(I) "Material" means all or part of any archeological, paleontological, biological, or historical items including any human remains, aboriginal artifacts or camp sites.[Refer to any legislation covering the protection of Aboriginal sites.]

(J) "Cave Life" means any life form which normally occurs in, uses, visits, or inhabits any cave or subterranean water system, excepting those animals and species which are classed as feral animals in Australia.

Section 1.1

(A) A person may not, willfully or knowingly:

(1) break, break-off, crack, carve upon, write, burn, or otherwise mark upon, remove, or in any manner destroy, disturb, deface, mar, or harm the surfaces of any cave or any natural material which may be found therein whether attached or broken, including speleothems, speleogens and sedimentary deposits

(2) disturb or alter in any manner the natural condition of any cave:[i.e. they may walk in caves but not disfigure them by, for example, digging a hole in the floor.]

(3) break, force, tamper with, or otherwise disturb a lock, gate, door, or other obstruction designed to control or prevent access to any, cave, even though entrance thereto may not be gained.

(4) however, the entering or remaining in a cave by itself shall not constitute a violation of this section.

Section 1.2

A person may not dispose of, dump, store, or otherwise introduce into any cave, sinkhole, or subterranean drainage system any litter, refuse, dead animals, sewage, garbage, or any chemical or biological contaminant which is potentially dangerous to man or any form of cave life. It shall also be unlawful to burn within a cave or sinkhole any material which produces any smoke or gas which is harmful to any naturally occurring organism in any cave.

[Provision for a penalty]

Section 1.3

A person may not sell or offer for sale any speleothems in this State, or to export them for sale outside the State. [Provision for a penalty]

Section 1.4

(A) A person may not remove, disfigure, kill, harm, disturb, keep, restrain, or in any manner alter the natural condition or any environment of any cave life.

(B) notwithstanding the provision of subsection (A) of this section, scientific collection permits may be obtained from the relevant Land Management Authority or owner.

(C) Gates employed at the entrance or at any point within any cave shall be of open construction to allow free and unimpeded passage of air, water, insects, bats, and aquatic fauna.

(D) If a natural entrance is altered by man or a man made entrance to a cave is created then it should be ensured that the original airflow and access of life forms, to the cave, is maintained.

(E) If any tourist development is to take place in any cave then the relevant management authority shall undertake an Environmental Impact Study prior to any works taking place.

(F) Prior to any development of any cave for tourism a Cave Management Plan shall be undertaken by the relevant management authority.

(G) [Provision for a penalty]

Section 1.5

(A) Archeology reference to the appropriate acts and if necessary specific clauses should be added to this piece of legislation if they are not encompassed in other acts.

Section 1.6

(A) Neither the owner of a cave nor his authorised agents acting within the scope of their authority are liable for injuries sustained by any person using the cave for recreational or scientific purposes if no charge has been made for the use of the cave, notwithstanding that an inquiry as to the experience or expertise of the individual seeking consent may have been made.

[Possible penalties:

Section on Speleothem Breakage - Minimum fine of $10,000 or 6 months in prison.

The other sections also require minimum penalties such as the one above for the section on Speleothem Breakage.]

To make comment on this draft legislation please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

by Rauleigh Webb, WASG

Many factors led to the gross vandalism of Drovers Cave. Several management strategies are proposed which may avoid or reduce vandalism from these causes.

The managerial decisions, which probably contributed to the vandalism of Drovers Cave, are discussed with respect to other caves which may be befalling a similar fate.

INTRODUCTION

Drovers Cave (J2) is situated in the Drovers Cave National Park about 5km east of Jurien Bay in Western Australia. The cave has suffered extensively at the hands of vandals over a long period and the current management policies offer little hope of this vandalism being curtailed.

I wish to examine here a short history of the cave with respect to the cave's management and then propose a management strategy that would have and hopefully will reduce vandalism in the cave.

A BRIEF HISTORY

The cave was well known to early explorers and stockmen. Its proximity to the Coastal Stock Route meant that it was visited by drovers and hence the name.

Several old signatures on one of the cave walls may be genuine. For example, the image below shows the signature of one J.W. Hacket with the date 1886. The authenticity of the signature may be checked by consulting old records of that period. The majority of visits by stockmen appear to have been in the 1930 - 1940 period if the dates associated with the graffiti in the cave are to be believed.

hacket

The ability of early explorers is clearly indicated by the signature of one M. Brown - Gingin 1/4/1939 at the end of the presently known cave (see image below).

droversmap

Trips were made to the cave by members of the Western Australian Speleological Group (W.A.S.G.) in the early 1960's. Bain (1960) gives a good description of the cave including an extension that does not appear on the map of the cave shown above. He also mentions the existence of a small bat colony in the cave. Another report by Cook (1962) describes the cave as having "two entrances - a shaft in the roof of the first cavern and a walk-in entrance". He also mentions the sighting of a bat colony in the cave.

The cave was surveyed by Bob Shoosmith and Stan Reading in June, 1973. Their plan view of the cave was re-detailed by the author in December, 1982 and this plan appears in the above map.

The National Parks Authority (N.P.A.) file on Drovers Cave records the following major events in the caves recent history.

The cave was broken into again in January, 1971. This was reported by the then Ranger in charge of Nambung National Park, Alf Passfield. It was probably locked in 1969 although this has not been ascertained with certainty. An area of 2680 ha is reserved around Drovers Cave and the area was vested in the N.P.A. as a Class C reserve in May, 1972. The name Drovers Cave National Park was proposed in February, 1973 and gazetted in March, 1973 despite objections by the W.A.S.G.

The Conservation through Reserves Committee report of 1975 states "Drovers Cave has potential for development as a tourist site, due largely to spectacular stalactite formations." They recommended that the reserve status should be altered from C Class to A Class. This recommendation was adopted and in January 1978 the reserve was changed to A Class.

In 1976 mineral claims were sought in the National Park. The then Minister for Conservation and Environment, Mr. P.V. Jones, stated "at this stage on all the evidence available to the Department (Conservation and Environment), and to myself, it would not be our intention to support any objection." The Director of the N.P.A. objected to the mining claim in Drovers Cave National Park and in the Wardens court in March, 1976 his appeal was upheld.

Later that year the ranger R. Harris stated in a letter to head office that he had “a major problem with vandals in the area, particularly with Drovers Cave itself."

Attempts by the Cave Working Group in W.A. to change the name of the Drovers Cave National Park to Drovers National Park are thwarted by the Surveyor General who says "the idea does not have merit".

In September, 1982 the N.P.A. objected to exploration permits to search for coal beneath Drovers Cave National Park. Finally, in December 1982 the N.P.A. approved the conducting of educational tours in Drovers Cave by a local resident of Jurien Bay. A series of conditions are placed upon these tours.

VANDALISM

The vandalism in the cave falls into two categories : graffiti on walls and speleothems; and speleothem breakage. The graffiti has accumulated over a long time. The oldest dated signature known in the cave is that of "Hacket, 1886” shown earlier. Other signatures are dates 1896. Several early 1900's signatures occur but then there appears to be a break until the late 1930's when a spate of signatures appears. Also several of the "drawings" in the cave appear to be from this period as indicated by the "drover" pictured below.

droverspic

A vast majority of the graffiti is undated and hence when it occurred cannot be determined. However some of the recent signatures are dated 1970 and 1971, an example is shown below.

willie

These signatures occurred after the gate was placed on the cave. Some of the worst graffiti, shown below, is the use of red paint to write names on the cave wall. This gross act is known to have occurred between 1965 and 1973 - no more accurate timing can be placed on the act due to the relatively low visitation rate of speleologists to the cave.

graffiti

The map of the cave,shown earlier, indicates the major areas of graffiti and also speleothem breakage. Speleothem breakage and removal is prevalent in the main chamber prior to the crawl. The image below shows a particularly bad area of speleothem breakage. Within two metres of the person in the photograph, over 50 major speleothem were found to have been broken. The floor of the cave is relatively free of broken formation and hence one assumes that the majority of breakages occurred for the collection of a variety of speleothems. As indicated by the cave map the majority of the speleothem breakage occurs before the low crawl. This obstacle has deterred the main would-be vandals and as a result the speleothem displays past the crawl contain few breakages. One column has been badly defaced by graffiti but this is the only major damage in this area.

breakage

Drovers Cave is by far the most highly decorated cave in this area. In fact speleothem development is almost totally absent from other caves of the region with the exception of a small area of recently discovered development in Old River Cave (J7). Hence the preservation of the speleothems that are still intact in Drovers Cave is of high priority.

PAST AND PRESENT MANAGEMENT

In 1969 the cave was gated by the N.P.A., which was in itself a major act of vandalism. It not only defaced the cave entrances by almost completely blocking the solution pipe entrance but also made the walk-in entrance unrecognisable. This left the entrance area and surrounds covered in cement and devoid of foliage. Also the gate placed on the cave only had a hand hole in it. As a result the bat population in the cave either died or escaped via this hole - never to return! The ecosystem built up around the bat population was also devastated.

As indicated in the caves history the area was made a National Park and named Drovers Cave National Park . This attracted attention to the area in general and the cave in particular. Signs were erected on the main road telling passers-by that this area was Drovers Cave National Park. Hence Drovers Cave must be in there somewhere! So quite a number ventured in down the main 4WD track into the park. The first feature, 5 metres off this track, that you notice is a barren area with exposed caprock and cement!

Consequently the number of times the lock has been cut, blown or shot off cannot be estimated but it is well into double figures. Although the N.P.A. have Drovers Cave National Park under their control the active management that it receives is almost negligible. The ranger in charge of the park is stationed at Nambung National Park 50 km to the south and he visits the cave and/or the park infrequently.

For example the cave had no lock on the gate for at least four months of 1982. When it was finally replaced it was "removed" within two weeks. I wish to categorically state that I do not believe that this lack of active management is a result of policy decisions within the N.P.A. but rather the result of a lack of funding for the N.P.A. which severely restricts its ability to deploy rangers within the National Parks under its control. Consequently many National Parks in W.A. remain unmanaged or severely undermanaged and unless the government changes its policy with respect to the financing of the N.P.A. this situation is only likely to worsen as more areas of the state are declared National Parks. However, the managing authority has made some crucial "mistakes" in its management of Drovers Cave to date. These have been:

1.    Locking the cave without thought to the bat population.

2.    Destruction of the natural entrances and hence causing unknown alterations to the cave meteorology.

3.    Naming the National Park - Drovers Cave National Park and hence attracting undue attention to a cave without active management or the likelihood of getting it.

4.    Poor gate design to protect the lock and hence reduce the number of break-ins.

5.    Destruction of the vegetation surrounding the entrances.

6.    Placement of the major access track to the park within 5 metres of the cave entrance.

7.    Placement of signs on the major access road indicating this is Drovers Cave National Park.

The effects of these managerial "mistakes" are fairly clear within the cave today in the form of vandalism and graffiti. Fortunately several of these "mistakes" are not irreversible but for the cave to have a secure future they must be corrected.

FUTURE MANAGEMENT

At this point I should remind readers of the Conservation through Reserves Committee quote that "Drovers Cave has potential for development as a tourist site, due largely to spectacular stalactite formations". In a paper outlining the future tourist caves of the South West of W.A. (Webb, 1982) no mention is made of Drovers Cave. The reason is that the vandalism of the speleothems in the cave has completely removed the possibility of the cave ever being developed for tourism. The future user group for the cave is initially likely to remain speleologists but if the proposed plan outlined below is carried out then the future may hold a more diverse outlook.

Several of the "mistakes" noted above can be rectified by the adoption of a plan which I call the "Big Re". This plan is in two parts - the immediate future and then the long term aims. This plan effectively reverses several of the "mistakes" made by the N.P.A., and then allows for the management of the cave as a wild cave.

THE "BIG RE"

Short Term

1.       Redesign the gate to protect the lock.

2.       Revegetate the area surrounding the cave entrances.

3.       Relocate the access track away from the cave entrance.

4.       Replace the Drovers Cave National Park signs with signs saying National Park.

Long Term

5.       Restore the cave by the Removal or coverage of as much graffiti as possible.

6.       Rename the National Park to Reduce public pressure on the cave.

7.       Recommence negotiations with the appropriate authorities to Remove the cave name from maps available to the general public.

8.       Re-evaluate the need to gate the cave and if appropriate - REMOVE THE GATE!

This eight point plan has far reaching implications, not only for Drovers Cave but also for other caves in a similar situation. I will consider the long term aspects in some detail as the short term points are self explanatory.

RESTORATION IN THE CAVE

Cave restoration is not an easy process and one that requires considerable thought and patience in its implementation. The speleothems in the cave have been irrepairably damaged and no restorative efforts will improve their condition. However a great deal of the graffiti in the cave can be removed or covered.

The graffiti that is on the surface of the walls such as pencil or charcoal can be removed a wire brush without further significant defacing of the cave walls. Graffiti that is carved into the walls can also be removed depending on the depth of the engravings. Some of these engravings are too deep to remove as they would result in unsightly "holes" in the cave walls.

The red paint that has been used in the cave (see Plate 4) can not be removed as it has been absorbed into the limestone during its application and hence any attempt to remove it would result in severe defacing of the cave wall. The alternative is to cover the red paint with a water based white-cream paint that matches as closely as possible the "colour" of the cave wall. This you may claim is a further act of vandalism but consider that we are trying to achieve, by any restorative work in the cave, the reduction of the possibility of further gross acts of vandalism. The disguising of the worst acts of vandalism in the cave can only assist in reducing the probability of such an act occurring again by removing the "….but the cave is already stuffed so what will some more matter ....” syndrome.

RENAME THE NATIONAL PARK

This is a difficult action as the Cave Working Group (W.A.) found when it recommended to the Surveyor General that the name of Drovers Cave National Park should be changed to reduce the pressure on the cave. This recommendation was quashed by the Surveyor General who considered that the proposal "did not have merit". Such a rejection is disconcerting considering the combined expertise of the members of the Cave Working Group with respect to cave management. However if public pressure is to be removed from Drovers Cave then government authorities must be convinced that the naming of a National Park or Conservation Reserve after any highly susceptible natural feature may be aiding in the destruction of the very thing they are trying to preserve! This is particularly pertinent if the National Park or Conservation Reserve is vested with a managing authority who, for whatever reason, are unable to actively manage the site in question.

This may well be the case with proposed National Parks in the Nullarbor region of W.A. The N.P.A. has no possibility, under their present funding arrangements, of establishing a ranger in this area and so the declaration of National Parks in this region will only draw undue attention to sensitive caves with little or no management. Hence the action of naming a National Park after a particular cave is one which must be given exceptional consideration before it is undertaken.

The job of -convincing government authorities is unlikely to be a sinecure but one which must be tackled immediately.

REMOVAL OF CAVE NAMES FROM PUBLIC MAPS

The placement of a cave's name and a symbol indicating its location on a map available to the general public may play a significant role in the visitation rate to that cave. Any reduction in the visitation rate to caves of a fragile nature can only reduce the probability of cave vandalism.   A complete outline of the intricacies of this problem are given by Webb (1983) for the W.A. situation and so will not be discussed at length here. However it must be said that the removal of a cave's name from a public map will definitely assist the conservation of that cave. This is certainly the case with Drovers Cave due to its proximity to major access roads. As with the previous point convincing the appropriate authorities, that removing the cave names from public maps will greatly assist in the conservation of the cave resource, will be an onerous task but one that is vital for cave conservation in future years.

RE-EVALUATE THE NEED TO GATE THE CAVE

This step should be taken only after the other seven proposals have been accomplished. At present the only managerial tool that is being used to protect Drovers Cave is the "locked" gate. This is proving to be a costly and time consuming method as the lock is continually being removed.

After the implementation of the first seven points of the plan then the need to maintain the gate on the cave should be reassessed. With the proposed passive management plan in effect the need to gate the cave may no longer be a necessary managerial tool. Given responsibility the general public may be able to visit the cave as a wild cave. Hamilton-Smith (1977) expresses the opinion that - "If we treat people as hooligans, it merely increases the likelihood that they will behave as hooligans. If we treat people as responsible individuals it increases the likelihood that they will behave responsibly."

If this philosophy is accepted then the removal of the gate may be the best long term strategy. However this must be assessed once the remainder of the management plan is in effect.

OTHER CAVES

Given that a great deal of the proposed management plan for Drovers Cave is a general strategy then the possibility of extending the ideas expressed within the plan to assist other caves in the same or a similar situation is highly feasible. As a general factor affecting all caves whose names appear on a public map, it is desirable that, on an Australian wide basis these names are removed. This policy must be conveyed to the National Mapping authority as well as the various State authorities.

In general I would ask all speleologists to consider my general points seriously and if they consider that these or other factors are adversely affecting caves within their State that they strongly convey their ideas to the appropriate managing authority or government department.

CONCLUSION

I must finish by saying that I'm not one for excluding people from National Parks, on the contrary.   However I hope that I have illustrated here that unless special management considerations are given to caves they can certainly suffer due to poor management practices.

Hence if a manager's presence is not felt within a park then, 1 believe, that the general public will not respect the cave environment for what it truly is - a sometimes fragile, always non-renewable resource.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The assistance in the field of Chris Goodsell and Rinaldo Cassol is greatly acknowledged, as well as the assistance of Wayne Taylor of the National Parks Authority. I would also like to thank Bob Shoosmith for consenting to the reproduction of his survey of Drovers Cave. I must also thank the National Parks Authority for providing information regarding Drovers Cave.

REFERENCES

Bain, T. (1960)         'Jurien Bay Caves', The Western Caver 12(6) 193-195

Cook, D.L. (1962)  'Jurien Bay Caves', The Western Caver 2(2) 14-15

Hamilton-Smith, E. (1977)  'Is vandalism really necessary', in Cave Management in Australia II, G.J. Middleton (ed.) A.S.F. Hobart, Tasmania.

Webb, R, (1982)     'Wild Cave Management in the South West of Western Australia - Our Future Tourist Caves', in Cave Management in Australia IV.   J.R. Watson (Ed.) N.P.A. and A.S.F., Yallingup, Western Australia.

Webb, R. (1983)     'The Removal of Cave Names from Public Maps - A Sound Management Practice’, to be presented to the Fifth Australian Conference on Cave Tourism and Management, Buchan, Victoria.

(Submitted for publication to the ACMKA Journal February 2002)

In the December issue of the ACKMA journal Anne Wood’s article (Wood, 2001) was sub-titled “CLAP Worth a Round of Applause”.  This article listed many of the changes that have occurred in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (LNNP) over the last ten years since the introduction of the Cave and Abseiling permit system.

The vast majority of these changes have been very positive and seen vast improvements in the status of many caves and karst features in the LNNP.  The ridiculous levels of uncontrolled visitation to Calgardup and Giants Caves have been quelled.  Also the visitation to Self Guided caves has been significantly reduced by the implementation of firstly a requirement for leaders to hold a Senior First-Aid certificate and subsequently to undertake a TAFE/CALM run leader training course.  As indicated by Wood, 2001 this process has reduced the number of qualified leaders from over 500 to about 60.

The reduction in the number of leaders has therefore lead to a significant drop in the number of caver visits to the majority of the Self Guided caves in the LNNP.

This is all very significant for the caves of the LNNP that were under considerable pressure.  HOWEVER I find it very galling that this article failed to mention any of the negative aspects of the cave management in the LNNP, which is or has directly impacted on caves within the park.  It is vital that cave managers convey the mistakes that are made as well at all the good work.  If only the good things are reported the mistakes will continue to be made.  Remember EVERYONE makes mistakes – lets minimize the chances of them being repeated elsewhere by reporting them in the ACKMA journal.

The “Christmas Tree” Fiasco

The most significant occurred in 2001 when the “Christmas Tree”, a crystal pool decoration shown below, was virtually destroyed by a permitted party.  This formation had successfully survived the 1980’s and 1990’s when access to Dingo Cave was either unrestricted (1980’s) or via a permit system (1990’s).

christmastree

 

During these times a visitor to Dingo Cave was likely to meet other cave visitors wandering about with a hand torch and little else.  These were generally surfies visiting a cave when the surf was bad on the coast.  Significant erosion did occur in the entrance chamber of Dingo Cave during this period.  Once again an excellent management initiative to place log steps in the entrance chamber halted the erosion.

However despite the uncontrolled access to Dingo Cave the “Christmas Tree” formation survived unharmed.  Then during 2001 after the cave had been gated, track/route marked and only qualified leaders could enter the cave the “Christmas Tree” was severely damaged when a leader attending to one party member allowed other party members to explore onwards unsupervised.  To me this would have caused major alarm bells to ring.

Even a mention of the significant loss of the “Christmas Tree” formation, the likes of which I have not seen elsewhere on my travels or in photographs of cave formations from around the world, in Anne’s article would have gone someway to indicate managements level of concern at its loss and/or significant damaging.  But it was not mentioned.

At the very least significant discipline should have been handed out to the leader of the party.  Instead the “punishment” was three days of community service work track marking caves!  I would have considered this a privilege, not a punishment, and something that all leaders should have been trained in on their training courses.  As a matter of course, leaders should carry spare track markers and repair/replace track and route markers when they visit any cave.

If they are not able to perform this function then they clearly have not been trained in basic minimal impact caving techniques.

Furthermore given that the most important aspect of any cave leader training scheme is Group Management it is imperative that the training of this aspect of cave leadership should be reviewed.  Also it would appear that for the protection of caves that all existing leaders needed re-examination to ensure that appropriate Group Management practices were being used by existing leaders.  This could have been undertaken as an addition to the leader training scheme where the application of track and route marking could also be taught.

None of these actions were undertaken.

Route/Track Marking and the Cave Management Advisory Committee (CMAC)

It is clear from the route marking in Dingo Cave that both the Cave Management Advisory Committee (CMAC) and the cave managers, who examined the track/route marking and did not have it modified, do not understand the basic principals of route marking and why it is used.

In order to minimize cavers impacts it is preferable, in caves which are likely to sustain high visitation, to route and/or track mark.  Route marking is used not only to ensure that cave leaders do not get lost and cause further cave impact by trying multiple passages to locate the way on/back, but also to reduce impact on some passages.

For example if we have three passages that all lead from Point A to Point B then route marking SHOULD be used on ONE of those tracks to minimize caver impacts on the cave.  Route marking one path while leaving the others unmarked should indicate to the leader that the route marked path should be used.  In this way all of the caver impact is focused on one path leaving the other two untouched.  Clearly the selection of which path to route mark is import and this is when route/track marking training is imperative.

In Nannup Cave many track markers were glued to cave formations and despite strong protest it took over 12 months for John Cugley, the then WASG president, and Steve Wright to convince the CMAC that they should be removed from the formations and affect their removal (Wright, 2000).  Track and route marking should be used to reduce caver impacts, not create a further impact by the markers themselves.

Having been one of the original members of the CMAC I know of the many “battles” that had to be fought with other members of the committee to ensure that the conservation of caves was foremost in decisions that were made.

After my resignation in 1997 I was highly concerned, for the caves, by the comments of the part time secretary for the CMAC (who was a CALM employee with no axe to grind regarding caves) who said to me that she was sad that I was leaving the committee as I was the only person on the committee who would stand up for the rights of caves.

The composition of CMAC provides input by user groups who are trying to ensure that the group(s) that they represent continue to have access to caves. They do not appear to have the interests of caves foremost when they are making decisions that may effect cave environments.  The removal of CMAC and replacement with a body whose major focus is ensuring the long term conservation of the caves of the LNNP would be the most appropriate action.

Calgardup Development

The development of a tourist cave such as Calgardup Cave which requires infrastructure such as buildings, car parks, roads, toilets, walkways and platforms also requires careful planning to ensure that the impact of the infrastructure on the cave is minimized.

Unfortunately in this case the building was placed adjacent to the cave entrance with no examination of what may lie beneath the proposed building.  The car park and toilet were also placed adjacent to or above the cave.  All of this infrastructure is likely to or has the potential to impact any cave which lies beneath it. The placement of this infrastructure in this case has a high potential to cause adverse cave impacts due to its proximity to known shallow cave.

Also within the cave, galvanized pipe was used as footings for platforms directly in the cave stream.  After complaints the galvanized pipe was replaced with plastic although the galvanizing had already corroded.  This too could have been avoided with appropriate planning with consultation.

The artificial damming of the cave stream to produce a lake is also unnecessary and has unknown effects downstream and on the dammed area.

Had an appropriate development plan be constructed and issued for comment prior to the placement of the infrastructure much of these cave threatening issues could have been avoided.

Conclusions

CLAP should receive some applause for ensuring that Cave Leaders in the LNNP Cave and Abseil Permit System have some training prior to taking visitors to Self Guided caves.  That level of applause should be tempered with the knowledge that despite this training one of the LNNP’s significant cave formations was severely damaged (destroyed in the eyes of many!).  If appropriate quality assurance testing is employed following Leader training the probability of such catastrophe’s would be greatly reduced.

Future developments in the LNNP should undergo wider scrutiny to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.  A set of procedures for development of karst areas should also be developed.  (This may be addressed by the IUCN who are developing an “IUCN Guidelines document on Cave Tourism Development”)

The existing CMAC should be abandoned in favour of an appointed body whose focus is entirely Cave and Karst conservation in the LNNP.

References

Wood. A, (2001) Recent Development in Cave Management in the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park “CLAP – Worth a Round of Applause” ACKMA Journal No 45. pp 13-19

Wright. S, (2000) Opinion – “What are they doing to Nannup Cave?”, WASG Informer Feb 2000.