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Tiwi Food: Animals

This table provides information about animals Tiwi people use for food. For a more comprehensive list please refer to Tiwi plants and animals: Aboriginal flora and fauna knowledge from Bathurst and Melville Islands, northern Australia (2001) Puruntatameri, J., et al. Non-Tiwi are banned from hunting or fishing on the Tiwi Islands without a permit.

Tiwi Name 


Common Name


Scientific Name 


Tiwi Season







Lates calcarifer


All seasons


Arlaminga flesh is eaten after cooking. It is very tasty and highly sought after. 



Sugarbag Bee


Trigona spp.




Yingwati, sugar bag, is collected in the dry season. Dalyngini (bees) are followed through the bush and the tree containing sugar bag is chopped down.



Agile Wallaby


Macropus agilis


All seasons


Jipwajirringa are a much sought-after source of meat. In the past, they were hunted by men with spears and throwing sticks but are now hunted with guns. 



Mud Mussel


Polymesoda erosa


All seasons


Jukwarringa are an excellent food resource. 



Whistling Duck


Dendrocygna spp. 


Kumunupunari, Tyiari


When the water holes dry up it is easier to hunt Jurriyl. The flesh is eaten after roasting on hot coals.

Kawarri or Muwani


Sand Goanna


Varanus panoptes


All seasons


The flesh is eaten after a light roasting on hot coals. 





Ardeotis australis




The flesh, which is cooked on coals and eaten, is considered excellent food. Kawukawuni are easier to hunt in Kumunupunari.



Northern Brown Bandicoot


Isoodon macrourus


All seasons


Kipopi is considered excellent meat. They are roasted on hot coals. 



Orange-footed Scrub-fowl


Megapodius reinwardt


All seasons


Kirilima are roasted on hot coals and eaten all year round. 



Green Turtle


Chelonia mydas


All seasons


Turtles are collected whenever possible, although Jamutakari seems to be the most fruitful time. The flesh is eaten after the whole animal has been roasted in a fire. Karaka (turtle eggs) are a very popular food source and are eaten raw or boiled in water for 5 to 10 minutes



Mud Crab


Scylla serrata


All seasons


The flesh of the claws, body and legs of Kurumpuka is eaten after a quick roasting on hot coals. It is considered a delicacy and is much sought after. 





Dugong dugon




Mantuwunjini are hunted when they come in close to the coast to feed and breed. The flesh is eaten and is considered an excellent food. 



Mangrove Jack


Lutjanus argentimaculatus


All seasons


Marripukarli are often found in near mangroves, and are known for their dangerous bite. The flesh is eaten after cooking and is very tasty. 



Crested Tern


Sterna bergii




Martapaka lays eggs at the end of Jamutakari, the wet season. The eggs are collected, cooked and eaten. They are considered an excellent food.



Partridge Pigeon


Geophaps smithii




Mapulinka are found on the roadside when grasses are seeding. The flesh is eaten after roasting. 



Magpie Goose


Anseranas semipalmata


Kumunupunari, Tiyari


When the water holes dry up it’s easier to hunt Mayimampi. The flesh is eaten after cooking and is considered excellent food. It can be dangerous collecting Mayimampi eggs as Yirrikipayi (Saltwater Crocodiles) are in the same habitat. 



Cockle (ridge shell)


Anadara granosa


All seasons


Mirangini are lightly roasted in hot coals, allowed to cool then eaten. 

Mirninguwuni, Piliwuni or Piliwunga




Saccostrea spp. 


All seasons


Oysters are eaten raw, roasted briefly on coals or boiled for a short period. They are considered an excellent food resource that promotes good health. 



Long Bum


Telescopium telescopium


All seasons


Piranga are lightly roasted on hot coals. They may also be eaten uncooked and are an effective hangover treatment.



Black-footed Tree-rat


Mesembriomys gouldii




Pwampungini flesh tastes good in Kumunupunari, the dry season, because they have been eating flowers and nectar.



Black Flying-fox


Pteropus alecto




Tarnikini flesh is eaten after roasting on coals. Tarnikini taste better in Kumunupunari, the dry season, because they have been eating flowers and nectar.



Burdekin Duck


Tadorna radjah


Kumunupunari, Tyiari


Tirrintirra flesh is eaten after roasting on coals. 



Cheeky Mangrove Worm


Bankia australis




Wakatapa is a small ‘cheeky’ mangrove worm that cannot be eaten at most times of the year. However, after it has been boiled it makes a soup that is good medicine for coughs and colds, and is used by nursing mothers to increase milk production. If Wakatapa is accidentally only be eaten raw it causes throat irritation and coughing. It can only be eaten without cooking if collected from freshwater areas of mangroves and during Tiyari.



Northern Brushtail Possum


Trichosurus vulpecula


All seasons


Wuninga are an important and highly regarded food source. They are roasted on hot coals. 





Tapes spp. 


All seasons


Wurripiti are lightly roasted in hot coals, allowed to cool then eaten.





Nerita balteata


All seasons


Wujirrima are lightly roasted on hot coals and the flesh picked out with a stick and eaten.



Carpet Python


Morelia spilota


All seasons


Yilinga are boiled for several hours or placed on hot coals. The cooked flesh is a popular food. 



Saltwater Crocodile


Crocodylus porosus


All seasons


Yirrikipayi is only eaten by old people. The tail is the tastiest part. The eggs are hard to harvest because they are closely guarded by adult crocodiles.



Mangrove Worm






Yuwurli is a large sweet-tasting worm eaten raw after chopping them from the branches, stems and roots of dead mangrove wood. Yuwurli taste similar to oysters, and are given to people who are sick or unhealthy. They are especially good for pregnant women and nursing mothers and as a hangover cure.  Yuwuli cannot be eaten in Tiyari.