Integrating History and Ecological Thinking: Royal National Park in Historical Perspective

Daniel Lunney


This paper aims to develop an ecological history of Royal National Park. The socio-cultural context for the push to reserve such a large tract of land in perpetuity in 1879 includes the Park’s early links to the Royal Zoological Society of NSW (formerly the Acclimatisation Society of NSW), in addition to a strong political movement advocating the reservation of open space in urban areas. A selection of maps of the Park situates it in a broader context. Previously unpublished data from 1879 to the present is evidence of increasing formal support for nature conservation and protected areas. Tim Flannery’s contentious essay ‘Beautiful Lies’ (2003) is challenged on the issue of long-term fauna conservation in Australia’s national parks. The paper concludes that using an ecological approach to interpreting historical data enables us to gain a clearer grasp of the reasons behind the changes to the Park’s boundaries since 1879, the relationship between the Park and its fauna, and the challenges facing the Park as an urban park in the twenty-first century.

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