Wildlife advocacy initiative Defend the Wild has called on the Andrews Government to halt the killing of Victoria’s threatened dingoes after harrowing footage of dingoes being trapped and shot obtained by the group was revealed on the ABC’s 7.30 Report la
Dr John Kingston, Veterinary Advisor to Australia's National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program, says that the internationally beloved dingoes of Fraser Island (K'Gari) have all but disappeared from their beach territories as government authorities condemn survivors to a cruel death by starvation.
Dr Kingston said he was appalled at the condition of dingoes observed during recent NDPRP visits to the island.
‘Dingoes said by government and animal welfare authorities to be naturally lean are revealed as starving and probably doomed to extinction in photographs taken on the island for the NDPRP’, Dr Kingston said. ‘Hip bones protruding, backbone, ribs, muscle wastage, are all evidence that there is not enough food for these animals.
‘The Fraser Island dingoes are a semi-domesticate, an apex predator unique in the world, in that they form a bridge between the wild and humanity. Upwards of 80% of visitors to Fraser Island-K’gari wish to see a dingo in the wild. Is it any wonder, with seeing dingoes in this emaciated state that people want to feed them?
‘I don’t believe there is any veracity in the argument that feeding dingoes makes them aggressive. There is no scientific evidence for this at all. And yet it is an argument consistently raised and repeated by government authorities and their scientific advisors. This false belief was shown to be based on misinterpreted data in a paper by Rob Appleby, Bradley Smith et al, and another by Arian Wallach and Adam O’Neill. Prior to 1994 when the feeding of dingoes was stopped on Fraser Island, there had never been an attack by a dingo on a human.
‘Therefore,’ Dr Kingston says, ‘it is imperative that feeding of these dingoes commences. There is also no data to prove government statements that the dingoes will overpopulate the Island if supplementarily fed, as dingoes self-regulate their own numbers. These imaginary problems never occurred during the thousands of years the dingoes were fed. We call for random food drops immediately.’
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, which has legal responsibility for the animals’ welfare has consistently rejected conservationist concerns.
And the RSPCA, which once warned that the QPWS could be prosecuted for animal cruelty over its use of dingo traps on the island, now seems to back management policies, also referring to ‘skinny dingoes’ which it says are naturally lean and in good condition.
‘The photos show young females from the same territory, not old enough to reproduce and obviously not subject to pack support or discipline, now being pregnant, a sign of a species in crisis’, he said.
‘In a stable dingo pack, alpha females suppress breeding amongst other female pack members, so they are more able to help care for her pups and raise a successful litter.
‘Where are the animal ethics, and can we as a nation of animal lovers continue to watch as these animals slowly die a cruel death from starvation?
‘Do we wish for our overseas visitors to see the way we treat these precious iconic animals?
‘Where is Compassionate Conservation in all this?’
Dr John Kingston, BVSc,
National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program (Inc. A0051763G )(NDPRP)
‘Stop the Drop’: Ban Aerial Baiting with 1080 Poison, Treasury Gardens Melbourne (Lawn 4), November 24, 5 -8 pm. Since 2014, Victorian governments have been routinely dropping tonnes of cruel 1080 poison over vast areas of the Victorian natural environment from helicopters. Supposedly to protect farm stock from ‘wild dogs’, it is of virtually no benefit to farmers and nothing to do with ‘wild dogs’. The ‘wild dogs’ being killed are really Dingoes, the native Australian apex predator, a threatened species in Victoria and essential to the stability and health of Victorian ecosystems.
In October 2019, 26 prominent scientists, including some of the most respected, senior environmental scientists in Australia, wrote a joint, open letter to the Victorian Minister for the Environment, calling for the discontinuation of aerial baiting with 1080 poison.
Aerial baiting up for renewal - now is the time to step in to stop it
In December 2019 the Victorian government’s permission from the federal government to aerial bait with 1080 poison will expire. The Andrews Labor government must not seek renewed federal permission to continue this cruel and unnecessary assault upon Dingoes and Victorian ecosystems. This persecution has involved the deliberate mis-characterisation of Dingoes as ‘wild dogs’ by government bureaucrats, farm lobby extremists and the poison industry, thereby avoiding public scrutiny and potentially misleading government ministers.
SPEAKERS: Evan Quartermain Humane Society International, John Marsh Potoroo Palace New South Wales, Rohana Hayes Wolves Theatre
MUSICIANS: The Wild Orchids Chris Scheri Flautist and Robyn Youlten Guitarist
ART FOR EARTH: Candle Art installation by JORGE PUJOL “SAVE OUR DINGOES”
Sponsors: Bushland Dingo Haven Inc., Ron Holden; Anonymous; Jihrrahlinga Conservation Centre; Sime Validzic; Ernest & Robyn Healy, Marilyn Nuske
While expressing sympathy for the child injured by a dingo on Fraser Island around midnight on April 18, and for the child’s parents, the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program (NDPRP) wishes to draw attention to the long-term mismanagement of the high conservation value dingo population on the island by the Queensland authorities. The NDPRP considers that the continued mismanagement of tourism to Fraser Island by the Queensland government and of the dingo population by the Queensland environmental authorities have been major contributing factors in such incidents.
(Posted on behalf of the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program Inc.)
Tourism numbers to Fraser Island have grown over the past decade to mass proportions which are not consistent with the preservation of the environmental and wildlife values which are the basis of the Island’s World Heritage Listing status. This is particularly the case at peak visitation periods like Easter.
What should be managed as a high conservation, ecotourism location of world significance is being marketed as a cash cow for mass tourism. Much of this mass tourism impacts on dingo breeding locations and the dingoes simply cannot avoid the human traffic. Instead of tourist visitation to the island being managed as a privilege, and visitor numbers restricted accordingly, Fraser Island is being managed as a Disney style theme park.
Camping on Fraser Island should be strictly limited to designated camping areas, which exclude dingoes. Poorly regulated, free range camping on a mass scale should not be permitted. An alternative management approach of this kind would respect the high environmental values of the island, protect campers and limit visitation numbers to manageable levels. Wilson's Promontory in Victoria is an example of this superior management approach.
Serious questions remain about whether tourists to Fraser Island are properly informed by the authorities about dealing with dingoes and how to avoid negative contacts with them. Current visitation numbers are so great that this cannot be done properly. Questions also remain as to whether the ranger presence is great enough in popular camping locations on the island, like the one where this incident occurred. Was the family involved in this incident approached and informed by rangers about safe behaviour? The announcement by island authorities that the ranger presence will be stepped up in the wake of this incident is too little too late.
The simplistic and environmentally irresponsible approach of killing dingoes involved in such incidents cannot continue. Evidence shows that the genetic diversity of the island’s dingo population may already have been damaged by routine killing. The problem is not with the dingoes, which are part of Fraser Island unique ecosystem. It rests with the commercial mind set of the Queensland government, which looks upon the World Heritage Listing status of Fraser Island as an opportunity for maximising the tourist dollar at all costs.
Dr Ernest Healy
Dingoes play a key role in the conservation of Australian outback ecosystems by suppressing feral cat populations, a UNSW Sydney study has found. A UNSW Sydney study has ended an argument about whether or not dingoes have an effect on feral cat populations in the outback, finding that the wild dogs do indeed keep the wild cat numbers down.
In a paper published recently in Ecosystems, the researchers compared dingo and feral cat populations either side of the world’s longest fence that also doubles as the border between South Australia and New South Wales.
The fence was erected in the 1880s to in an attempt to keep dingoes from attacking sheep flocks in NSW and Queensland.
With a very small number of dingoes on the NSW side of the fence and much larger number on the SA side, the fence offered a perfect opportunity to observe feral cat numbers in identical environments with and without the influence of dingoes.
Professor Mike Leitnic from the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, says that over the course of a six year study – between 2011 and 2017 – he and his fellow researchers compared the numbers of dingoes, cats and their major prey species either side of the dingo fence in the Strzelecki Desert.
“We collected dingo scat and cat scat and analysed them to compare diets, while we also used spotlight searches to record numbers of each as well as two of their common food sources – rabbits and hopping mice,” he says.
“In our spotlight searches, dingoes were pretty much absent from the NSW side of the fence, with only four spotted in our six years of study. We also observed on this side that feral cats fluctuated as their prey numbers fluctuated.
“But on the SA side, where dingoes were common, the cat numbers were consistently lower.”
Co-author Dr Ben Feit says that early on in the study, both dingo and cat numbers on the SA side appeared to fluctuate along with numbers of their rabbit and hopping-mice prey, but from 2013 onwards, dingo numbers remained high while cat numbers remained low for the remainder of the study.
“In fact, the feral cats had basically disappeared by the end of 2015 and we went for a two year stretch without seeing any,” Dr Feit says.
“We think the cat population took a dive because of interference competition – either from dingoes actually preying on cats, or by scaring them completely away from the same hunting ground.”
The authors say that while the scat analysis showed that the wild dogs and cats eat similar foods, there wasn’t any evidence to suggest that competition for food was a major factor in how dingoes reduce cat populations. On the contrary, prey remained plentiful on the SA side of the fence, suggesting that dingoes had a direct, rather than incidental effect on the numbers of feral cats.
Feral cats are a serious conservation threat and have been linked with the extinction of at least 20 mammal species in Australia and threaten the ongoing survival of more than 100 native species.
The authors believe their study shows that dingoes play a key role in the conservation of Australian outback ecosystems by suppressing feral cat populations. Their work adds to previous studies that found dingoes help conservation efforts by keeping numbers of introduced red foxes, feral goats and feral pigs in check while also keeping kangaroos from overpopulating in certain areas.
A UNSW Sydney study says more evidence is needed before declaring the dingo a feral animal, casting a shadow over state governments’ justification for culling Australia’s largest carnivorous mammal. There is no conclusive evidence that the Australian dingo was once domesticated, UNSW scientists reveal, challenging the notion that the animal is therefore feral.
In a study published today by UNSW Sydney researchers, Professor Bill Ballard and Dr Laura Wilson suggest more research is needed that incorporates ancient DNA and whole genome data before such a conclusion can be made. The pair also examine evidence supporting the idea that the dingo was tamed, rather than domesticated.
The question on whether or not the dingo was ever domesticated is an important one because by definition, a feral animal is one that has returned to the wild following domestication. It overarches an ongoing, politically charged debate between governments, pastoralists, miners, scientists and conservationists throughout Australia.
This year the Western Australian government is planning reforms to the Biodiversity Conservation Act which will not only continue to define the dingo as a wild dog that is not native to Australia, but will also remove the classification of the animal as part of Australia’s fauna.
The upshot is that dingoes, which are thought to have lived on mainland Australia for at least 3500 years, could be trapped and killed with impunity, with some pastoralists and mining companies favouring culls to protect people and livestock.
In an attempt to take the heat out of the debate and reintroduce a scholarly framework for discussion, the authors reviewed past research to test whether there are indicators of dingoes being domesticated versus evidence the canids* were merely tamed.
They invoke Darwin’s writings in 1868 to make the distinction between domestication – defined as artificial selection as a result of breeding by humans for desired traits – and the taming of an animal, where a species is unconsciously selected by humans through interaction that may casually benefit both parties.
If there is evidence the dingo was tamed rather than domesticated (and has since reverted to its untamed ancestral wild state), the authors argue the Western Australian government’s policies are “based on an incomplete understanding of the evolutionary history of the canid”.
Study lead-author Professor Ballard is an evolutionary biologist from UNSW's School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences. He says the research, which examines genetic markers to distinguish untamed and wild canids from ‘feralised’ dogs, could be used to inform management strategies.
“Untamed and wild canids are not expected to carry signatures of artificial selection which are the hallmarks of domestication,” he says.
“In such a case, ancestral dingoes are predicted to have fully intergrated into the ecosystem upon arrival to Australia.
“In contrast, feralised dogs are expected to show genetic signatures of human selection, which would influence the foods they eat, their responses to humans as well as brain functions.
“But even if the latter scenario is true and dingoes can be regarded as once-domesticated, an open question that could be the subject of a future proposal is ‘Does 3500 years of integration into the Australian biota make them native?’”
Co-author Dr Laura Wilson, from UNSW’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, brings her expertise in morphology to the study. She says expressing the knowns and unknowns about the dingo’s biological and evolutionary profile makes it an exciting time for research on the dingo.
“There are a whole host of morphological features that are associated with domestication in mammals, and dogs actually stand out as the extreme, being the only domesticated mammal to possess the full suite of these features,” she says.
“These include, for example, shortening of the face, reduction in brain size, depigmentation of the skin or fur, development of a curly tail and floppy ears.”
In contrast, pure dingoes have been shown to have cranial growth patterns more similar to wolves than domesticated dogs, larger brains and a more discrete breeding season producing fewer pups than domestic dogs.
Dingoes are also notably less sociable with humans than domesticated dogs, characterised by a weaker ability to interpret gestures and a shorter time maintaining eye contact.
At the genetic level, there is consensus that there are at least two dingo ecotypes (Alpine and Desert) and these are closely related to New Guinea Singing Dogs. The authors note that some studies suggest Alpine dingoes are genetically similar to the African Basenji dog, implying dingoes were historically domesticated but now feralised.
Other studies examine the presence of the Amylase gene which regulates enzymes to help with the digestion of starches. In domesticated dogs, there are far more copies of the gene, which assists with a human-provided, starch-rich diet, whereas in dingoes and their wolf ancestors, copies of the gene exists in lower numbers, suggesting the dingo’s diet was not reliant on humans.
Professor Ballard is in a good position to be talking about dingo genes, having won the World’s Most Interesting Genome competition in 2017. But after looking for clues in support of and against the dingo’s domestication, he is convinced of the need of more research before making decisions about its future.
“We actually know less than I thought,” he says. “So I think it’s time to be more strategic and rigorous with our studies so that debates are based on data and not anecdotes or ‘gut’ feelings.”
* members of the dog family Canidae, including wolves, jackals, foxes, dingoes and dogs.
The National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program (NDPRP) today expressed dismay at the failure of the Victorian Labor government to put its own apex predator conservation policy into practice.
The Victorian Labor government recently committed to:
“recognise and protect the ecological function of existing dingo populations within Victorian ecosystems as part of biodiversity programs and management initiatives”
and to maintain:
“…, existing native apex predators in natural ecosystems and, investigate the potential functional role of reintroduced native apex predators in north-west Victoria”.
“Although the Victorian Labor government has recently refined and extended its policy commitment to protect dingo populations and their crucial ecological role, the government has failed at the very first significant test of that commitment,” NDPRP spokesperson Arthur Gorrie said.
“In September 2018, the Victorian government had the opportunity to correct the serious deficiencies of earlier dingo protection measures put in place after the listing of the dingo as a threatened species in 2010. The expiry of these measures provided the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio, with an opportunity to rectify these deficiencies.
“Many areas of Victoria where the dingo was unprotected at the time of the dingo threatened species listing, under the pretext of protecting farm stock from dingo predation, have in practice proven unnecessary, as in north western Victoria where there is very little sheep farming, with negligible stock losses. Yet, lethal dingo control in this part of the state was sanctioned with significant numbers of dingoes killed annually. Also, the very narrow genetic definition of the dingo used by the Victorian government means that many high conservation value dingo hybrids continued to be governed as vermin in Victoria by Agriculture authorities rather than as wildlife by biodiversity authorities.
“In July 2018, an extensive list of pre-eminent Australian environmental scientists jointly wrote to the Victorian government, urging it not to renew the dingo un-protection arrangements, along with the Humane Society International and other conservation organisations. The current arrangements were deemed to be unnecessary, ultimately ineffective and environmentally harmful. The government’s attention was also drawn to the need to afford protection to dingo hybrids. The experts especially drew attention to the need to cease lethal control of dingoes and ecologically functional hybrids in north western Victoria. Yet, this high level advice simply fell on deaf ears.
“At this point, there is a serious credibility gap between policy and conservation practice for the Victorian government in the area of apex predator conservation. The government now needs to explain why it ignored such high level advice and its own recent policy pronouncements on this key biodiversity issue..
“Why has the Victorian government failed to act, particularly in relation to north western Victoria, where the case for stock protection is so weak and where the opportunity for apex predator conservation and its biodiversity benefits so compelling?
“The NDPRP considers that the answer lies in part with a back room power sharing deal between Biodiversity and Agriculture bureaucracies, which hands a disproportionate degree of authority over dingo governance to Agriculture officials. The NDPRP considers that, rather than try to claw back control over this important area of biodiversity governance, Biodiversity bureaucracies appear more concerned with keeping face with the department of Agriculture. As a result, it appears that the Minister for the Environment remains inadequately briefed on the issue, including the need for Biodiversity to regain control over the governance of dingo hybrids. The NDPRP understands that the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio, is yet to receive a designated, comprehensive briefing on the apex predator issue and that Biodiversity officers have no intention to provide such a briefing in the foreseeable future.
“In light of recent progressive Victorian Labor government policy pronouncements on the apex predator issue, the NDPRP considers that any failure to adequately brief the Minister is unacceptable. In effect, it appears that the Minister for the Environment has been rendered incapable of performing her responsibilities on this environmental issue.
“The NDPRP urges the Victorian Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio, to seek the best external expert scientific advice on how to put her government’s progressive apex predator policy into practice. The recent renewal of the dingo un-protection arrangements, unchanged, for a further 5 years must be revisited by the Minister. To date, departmental advice appears to have been deficient. Important questions remain: was the Environment Minister even informed by her department of the collective appeal of Australia’s pre-eminent environmental scientists and peak environmental organisations for reform around the dingo un-protection issue?
National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program Inc.
In response to claims that DNA from a 350-year-old dingo tooth could save the species in Australia, National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program spokesperson Dr Ian Gunn said the reverse was the case. “On past experience, the evidence will be used to justify a continued sheep industry campaign to exterminate the species across Australia. Just because of the introgression of domestic dog genetics in some individuals, or because they are not the dingo variety identified by the genes in this ‘one-tooth’, they then falsely claim the animals they are killing are not real dingoes."
The Dingo Genome
The dingo genome was identified first by the late Dr Allan Wilton. His research partner, Dr Kylie Cairns has recently discovered that there was more than one dingo introduction, at least two, probably with varying genetics.
Dr Gunn said,
“Given the long pre-history of trade between northern Australian Aborigines and the seafarers thought to have brought the dingo to Australia - from the Middle East, India and South East Asia over thousands of years - there is little doubt there were many introductions. In this context it is amazing to find a University of the Sunshine Coast researcher now seeming to claim the tooth of one will reveal ‘the full genomic breakdown of the pure dingo’. It will really only reveal the genome of one race of dingo, descended from one of an unknown number of introductions."
He added that the trouble with DNA science on this subject is its misuse by proponents of broad-hectare baiting, on the grounds that a small proportion of domestic dog genes means the animal is not a real dingo. He called a preoccupation with genetic purity a "distraction from the real issue, which is apex predator ecological function, which most hybrids are performing."
“In any case, the construction of a pre colonisation genetic benchmark would need to be representative and the collection of enough pre-settlement samples to achieve this, especially given evidence of different lineages, would be virtually impossible," he argued.
Current 'solutions' make the problem worse
On the issue of baiting, he stated:
“Baiting is a cruel and massively taxpayer funded industry with its own profit making agenda. It is already destroying ecological balances, endangering wildlife and, for farmers, worsening all the problems it claims to be solving. Broad-hectare baiting has already caused immense problems for farmers by driving dingoes from public lands, where they should be left alone, onto people’s farms."
“Proponents say it disrupts dingo pack structure and forces the dingoes to move on, as though these are good things. Farmers with properties adjoining public land might ask the authorities where the dingoes move on to, because the answer is their place."
“The breakdown of pack structure caused by baiting is the prime cause of the hybridization these people also claim to be concerned about. Without pack disruption, stable dingo packs will kill rather than breed with wild or stray dogs."
He observed that some cattle graziers say they are better off with dingoes controlling herbivore numbers and vegetable and grain growers have fewer problems with rabbits and rats. Even sheep farmers have far worse problems than dingoes – heat, cold, drought, flood and the real feral predators of the piece, the banks.
Millions of dollars wasted on baiting
“Dingoes are such an insignificant, though exaggerated problem, that official statistics in Victoria show it would be dramatically cheaper to pay farmers a better than market price for lost sheep than to spend the millions of dollars now being used to subsidise baiting."
Despite this reality, he said that the new research into the genes from one tooth will be used to manufacture public consent for more baiting, more poison and more extermination.
“Farmers will be worse off and so will we all,” he concluded.
The Andrews Labor government has just failed a crucial test of its integrity in relation to threatened species listings and biodiversity governance. Immediately prior to losing office in December 2010, the Brumby Labor government had finalized listing the dingo as a threatened native taxon under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
The current Labor government’s virtual trashing of that listing, through the reinstatement of a ‘wild-dog’ bounty, which directly panders to the Victorian Upper House Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party members, who were voted in on a relative handful of first preference votes, now casts a shadow over the Victorian Government’s commitment to biodiversity conservation.
The broader significance of the dingo listing relates to the dingo’s pivotal ecological role as apex predator. Ecologists around the world are increasingly pointing to the importance of top predators for ecosystem stability at a time of environmental dislocation and accelerating species loss.
The bounty is nothing more than a publicly subsidized membership recruitment drive for recreational hunting organizations because membership of such organizations is a precondition for permission to kill 'wild-dogs'/dingoes and receipt of the bounty payment.
While Jaala Pulford, the Agriculture Minister, against strong advice from peak environmental organizations and environmental experts, has obstinately persisted in reintroducing the bounty, the Environment Minister, Lily D'Ambrosio has remained invisible. No environmental defence of the bounty has been forthcoming, nor could there be.
This reflects a disturbing, environmentally destructive imbalance of ministerial responsibilities established under the previous Coalition government, whereby the Minister for Agriculture has shared responsibilities for key sections of the Wildlife and Flora and Fauna Guarantee Acts.
Labor is now demonstrating its willingness to continue the environmental dirty work of the Coalition government with little acknowledgement of the environmentally progressive legacy of the Brumby government's dingo listing and the arrangements then put in place to ensure a balanced approach to dingo protection and farm stock protection.
By reinstating the bounty, Victorian Labor has displayed serious environmental incompetence and party leaders seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Victorians deserve better.
Attached are two media releases, one by the Humane Society International (HIS) and the other by the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program Inc. (NDPRP). The HSI emphasises that there is no sound pest animal control justification for the bounty and that it will be environmentally harmful. The bounty of $120 per scalp will make no significant contribution to protecting farm stock from wild-dog predation.
The NDPRP Inc. highlights how the Andrews Labor Government has been captured by extreme elements of the farming lobby and recreational shooters organizations in the misguided belief that the ALP can win over a greater share of the rural vote to compensate for the likely electoral gains of the Greens at the next Victorian election.
Victorians need to ask where such extreme anti-environmentalism by Victorian Labor is heading. There is now a concerted push by the gun lobby for increased access to public lands and the advocacy of ‘community involvement’ in ‘pest animal’ management is providing the rhetorical basis for greater access. Victorians can expect that their national parks will become a focus of this push. At the moment, it is illegal to carry a firearm into national parks. However, given its present reactionary policy trajectory, Labor will likely continue to dump environmental principle in favour of political expediency.
Victorian Labor destroys legacy with backflip on dingo bounty
26th October 2016
Humane Society International (HSI) is incensed by the announcement that the Victorian Labor Government has destroyed its dingo conservation legacy with “a bigger, better bounty” than the Coalition program they scrapped just a year ago. A far cry from the previous Labor Government’s landmark listing of the dingo as a threatened species in 2008, the move signals a new era where Labor is beholden to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party with the state’s wildlife considered nothing more than collateral.
An abundance of reasons this regressive and misguided bounty program is bound to fail at the expense of Victoria’s environmental health were outlined by HSI and echoed by experts last week. They include: leaving the Government exposed to fraud; an inability to determine genetic purity in the field; and ‘wild dog’-dingo hybrids playing the same ecological role as genetically pure dingoes, including suppressing feral cat and fox populations to the benefit of countless native species.
"The Victorian Government is using taxpayer money to incentivise the killing of a threatened species with the ecological fallout to impact dozens more, it’s inexcusable and the public should be outraged. An opportunity to reform management to the mutual benefit of farmers and the environment has been ignored for purely political purposes, and we’re left with short-sighted investment in outdated methods that have repeatedly been tried and failed," said HSI Senior Program Manager Evan Quartermain.
Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford’s justification that a bounty of $120 per ‘wild dog’ scalp will be introduced “In recognition of the role hunting can play in supporting the management of wild dogs” is in stark conflict with expert organisations such as the Invasive Species Council, who have determined that shooting is a highly ineffective control measure for canid species. Similarly, Minister Pulford’s claim that “One less dog roaming on people's farms is a good outcome” demonstrates an alarming lack of ecological understanding. The latest research suggests that such control programs in fact increase stock predation due to pack disturbance altering behaviours.
“Alternative stock protection methods such as guardian animals have proven to be effective and are ripe for Government investment. Yet against all evidence the Labor Government has turned their back on the iconic and threatened dingo, bowing to shooters groups and trashing their conservation legacy by mimicking Coalition policy. They should instead be focused on strengthening the dingo’s threatened listing, with the voice of Minister for the Environment Lily D’Ambrosio conspicuous in its absence,” Mr Quartermain concluded.
HSI is currently seeking legal advice on the legality of the Victorian ‘wild dog’ bounty announced today.
Evan Quartermain, Senior Program Manager: 0404 306 993 or (02) 9973 1728
HSI concentrates on the preservation of endangered animals and ecosystems and works to ensure quality of life for all animals, both domestic and wild. HSI is the largest animal protection not-for-profit organisation in the world and has been established in Australia since 1994.
National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program (Inc. A0051763G )
Date: Monday November 7 , 2016
Does Victoria have an Environment Minister? –
Agriculture Minister continues to trash threatened species listing
The National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program Inc. (NDPRP) today expressed dismay that, as the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, appears to have run amok with environmentally damaging ‘pest animal’ policy, the Victorian Environment Minister seems to have resigned herself to a junior minister role over crucial biodiversity decision making.
It is extraordinary that at the very same time as the Minister for Agriculture has announced a ’wild dog’ bounty, she has announced a review of the same policy in 12 month’s time by a newly established ‘Wild Dog Management Advisory Group’. The NDPRP urges the public to ask why a policy that has so little to recommend it was adopted in the first place.
Having been strongly advised by peak environmental organisations, environmental experts and progressive elements within the Victorian ALP itself that bounties are an ineffectual means of pest animal control, would undermine Victoria’s listing of the dingo as a threatened species and would be environmentally harmful, the Agriculture Minister has persisted in imposing the bounty, for which recreational hunters will receive $120 dollars for each dingo scalp. President of the NDPRP, Dr Ian Gunn, today stated:
“The announcement of a review of the bounty decision in one year’s time is clearly a concession that the Agriculture Minister has been forced into by more environmentally responsible elements within the Victorian Labor Party. However, if the justification for the bounty policy is so spurious, why was it reinstated at all? Why would the Victorian Labor government allow the Agriculture Minister to dictate poor policy that is known to have no environmental or pest management validity?”
Part of the answer is the presence of two Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party members in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, with whom political horse trading has become a priority – in this instance at the expense of good environmental management.
Dr Gunn added:
“Unfortunately, the Victorian Government is endorsing what amounts to a publically-funded membership recruitment drive for recreational hunting organisations, as membership of these organisations is an eligibility requirement collection of the bounty.”
“At present the Victorian Labor government is in a race to the bottom with the Liberal-Nationals Opposition to show that Labor can implement the toughest wild-dog policy, regardless of the environmental consequences.”
This is evident in the second stated purpose of the ‘Wild Dog Management Advisory Group’, which is to review the central pillar of the dingo threatened species listing – that lethal control for dingoes/wild dogs not be permitted beyond a 3 kilometer buffer at the interface of public and private land (on public land). This buffer was put in place by the Brumby Labor government to ensure equitable protection for both farm livestock and the threatened dingo population.
Dr Gunn stated:
“The NDPRP considers that, on being forced into a review of the flawed bounty policy before it has even begun, the Minister for Agriculture has countered by including a review of the key protective element at the heart of the dingo threatened species listing, which had been put in place by the Brumby government in 2010 – the 3 kilometer limitation on lethal control.
It appears that the Minister is effectively using her privilege of having shared responsibilities for wildlife and biodiversity conservation legislation to undermine measures previously put in place to protect Victorian biodiversity. ”
Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the Victorian Labor Government’s treatment of the ‘wild-dog’ bounty issue is the invisibility of the Victorian Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio.
Dr Gunn stressed:
“Any review of the terms of the dingo threatened species listing should be led by the Victorian Environment Minister and state biodiversity officers, not the Department of Agriculture. It is extraordinary that a review of key aspects of the dingo threatened species listing, arrived at through extensive stakeholder consultation with the Department of Sustainability and Environment in 2009, should now be subject to review by the Department of Agriculture. The public might be forgiven for asking whether Victoria has an Environment Minister at this point in time. ”
The NDPRP calls upon the Premier, Daniel Andrews, to ensure that any review of the terms of the dingo threatened species listing be conducted by the Department for the Environment and led by the Minister for the Environment. The primary focus of any such review must be biodiversity conservation, not pest animal management. The Department of Agriculture has shown itself to be incapable of responsible, balanced decision making on this issue. The current approach is quite perverse and is damaging the Victorian Labor government’s environmental credibility.
Dr Ian Gunn BVSc. FACVSc. President NDPRP, 0427 387778 (mob.) [email protected]
It is commonly accepted that the dingo arrived in Australia approximately 4,000 years ago, and that the current population of dingoes across Australia grew from just one pregnant female. However, this was just an hypothesis posited by geneticist Dr Alan Wilton (deceased), and was never meant to be taken as fact. In the last paper he wrote before he died, Dr Wilton suggested that dingoes were more likely to have been introduced some 11,000 – 18,000 years ago . In a recent genetics study, Dr Wilton’s partner, Dr Kylie Cairns found that there were most likely two introductions of dingoes to Australia, not just one . One introduction was to the North-west of the country, and the other was to the South-east.
It is also commonly thought that dingoes were brought to Australia by Asian seafarers, but another hypothesis is that dingoes spread into what is now Australia via the land bridge between Papua New Guinea and Australia, some 8,000 years ago. Dingoes were declared indigenous to Australia in 1992 and are protected under legislation. However, they are also classified as a pest animal due to their predation on livestock, and with varying legislation in each state, the complexities of protecting them as a native taxon can be very frustrating.
Current taxonomy classifies the dingo as a subspecies of Canis lupus (wolf) that is, Canis lupus dingo . However, the classification Canis dingo was proposed in a 2014 study that established a reference description of the dingo based on pre-20th century specimens that are unlikely to have been influenced by hybridisation.  Dingoes are now, therefore, increasingly considered a species in their own right. However, current methods of identifying dingoes are inadequate because natural variation within dingo populations is poorly understood. Skull morphology and DNA testing techniques are not reliable. Geneticist, Dr Alan Wilton, who developed the current dingo purity test, stipulated that dingoes which test between 75 and 100 per cent pure should be treated as ‘pure’ for the purposes of conservation in the wild. In addition, there is considerable differentiation in the colour of dingoes including numerous combinations of white, ginger, black, and black and tan. Most people expect dingoes to be ginger and deem anything of a different colour to be hybrid.
Hybridisation of dingoes is said to be the biggest threat to their survival. However there is little evidence that moderately hibridised dingoes are dangerous to the environment. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case. Most all modern dingoes will have some genetic dog markers, but they behave and act like dingoes. Dingoes howl instead of barking, reproduce only once a year, and live in stable packs. It is only when these packs are fractured due to lethal control that hybridisation becomes more likely. A stable pack contains an alpha male and female, and offspring from the previous year plus pups. The alpha male and female suppress breeding by subordinate pack members, naturally keeping the population in balance. Dingoes can suppress breeding altogether in times of drought, fire, or when food is low for any other reason. A domestic dog would have a great deal of trouble infiltrating a stable dingo pack. However, if, due to lethal control, the pack is fractured, then the subordinate members would be more likely to mate with domestic dogs, thus creating a situation where there are more dingoes, not less. With no stable pack to teach the new parents and pups how to behave and what to hunt, they become like unruly teenagers and run amok, hunting anything and everything indiscriminately. Subsequently, the use of lethal control causes more problems than it solves.
Dingoes are territorial and are formidable in protecting their territories from intruders. Dingoes will only take farm stock if there is a shortage of natural food, and studies have shown that despite the fact that dingoes are regarded as predators of sheep and cattle, domestic livestock do not comprise a significant part of foods eaten. 
Stable dingo packs, therefore, offer a level of protection to farms from intruders such as free-ranging domestic dogs which are known to attack stock at will, not with the intention of eating what they kill, but killing without purpose. When a pack is fractured, these domestic dogs, which form into packs at night, predate on stock animals. Pastoralists who do not use lethal control on their properties find that they have less stock predation than those who do. 
Even so, there is little chance that severely hybridised offspring would survive in the wild. Without the characteristics of the dingo which are tailored to Australia’s harsh environment, hybrids would die out quickly. If they manage to survive and reproduce, eventually, after several generations, the genetics revert back to the ancestral dingo form.
Herein lies a conservation dilemma: some dingo conservationists want to preserve only pure dingoes, while others want to conserve dingo hybrids as well. There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that protecting dingo hybrids is beneficial for the environment as long as they are performing their role as top-order predator, protecting our native animals from introduced species like feral cats, foxes, pigs, goats and deer. They also keep native animals such as kangaroos at bay, which left unchecked, can cause just as many if not more problems for farmers as the dingoes themselves, by eating pasture grass and drinking stock water.
Dingoes are protected in national parks; however the same national parks are baited with sodium monofluoroacetate(1080 poison) to control foxes, paradoxically making national parks extremely hostile places for our top-order predator to live. This bait is indiscriminate and cruel, and not only kills foxes, but of course, dingoes, as well as other non-target animals like the endangered quoll, birds of prey, goannas and any carrion-eating animal. 1080 is said to be harmless to the environment because it is derived from native plants, but the bait is a synthetic substance which our native animals have no tolerance for. There is no antidote. 1080 can stay active in the environment, polluting waterways and flora, for 12 months or more. Again, baiting has the capacity to destroy dingo pack structure and cause social dysfunction within dingo populations, in turn undermining their ecosystem function. Despite unrelenting baiting, farmers are finding that they still have problems with dingoes. Efforts to eradicate dingoes are not working. Predator-friendly farming should be the way of the future.
Australia is the only country where its top-order predator is not safe anywhere.
Some states of Australia have a ‘wild dog’ bounty system in place, paying up to $120 per dingo scalp. Bounties have been found to be ineffective at reducing dingo numbers (or foxes or whatever else is targeted).
In a recent media release (17 Nov 2016) The Wilderness Society stated:
Previously, dingoes and wild dogs were targeted strategically, in areas where farmers were experiencing stock loss problems.
In contrast, the bounty system applies to very large areas – over half of the relevant public land in eastern Victoria is subject to the bounty – regardless of whether livestock protection is required.
The key issues are poorly informed members of the public unnecessarily killing dingoes and dingo hybrids, and the subsequent disruption of pack structures - believed to result in changes to territorial boundaries, and the increased risk of hybridisation and stock loss.
Lost in all of this is the importance the dingo holds for the Aboriginal First Nations People. Irrespective of when and how the dingo came to Australia, it was immediately adopted by the Aboriginal people and took on an important role in their lives. It is speculated that dingoes helped with hunting, but this sometimes questioned. We do know that the Aboriginal people were very fond of their dingoes; women nursed them from their own breasts as puppies, or expressed milk for them; when the adults went hunting, dingoes were left behind at camp to look after the children, keeping them safe from both evil spirits, and more corporeal dangers, like snakes and other intruders. Dingoes were often carried on walkabout, and were objects of great affection. In some tribes, dingoes were a totem animal; sacred. If a dingo was harmed in any way, punishment was often death. When a person died, often times his dingo companion was buried with him. 
The Aboriginal people have practically no voice in the ‘dingo: friend or foe’ debate, except perhaps on Fraser Island where they have stated that the white people first tried to eradicate them, and now they are trying to eradicate their dog.
‘They had us leave this Country, removed us, and it looks like they want to remove the dingoes. It is history repeating itself, only [now] it is the dingoes, which is part of our life. When the dingo is endangered, we feel like part of our culture is endangered.’ 
The dingo has always been an ancient semi-domesticate animal, living symbiotically with the Aboriginal people and up until recently, in places on Fraser Island, with white Australians. For the most part today the dingo is elusive, but historically dingoes often befriended wandering swaggies or cattlemen on their journeys across the country or around their properties.
So how do we save the dingoes? The National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program Inc (NDPRP) is currently focusing its energies on two places: Victoria, in the hope we can set precedents there, which we can then lobby other states with; and Fraser Island in Queensland because of the impending extinction of the iconic Fraser Island dingo which has its own unique characteristics.
The members of the NDPRP were instrumental in having the dingo listed as a threatened species in Victoria, under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. Although protections are in place for ‘pure’ dingoes under this Act, those protections are currently being undermined by the influence of two fishers and hunters members in the Victorian Legislative Council, who exercise disproportionate influence over the Victorian government. It is this influence which explains the recent reintroduction of a ‘wild dog’ bounty in Victoria despite Victoria having been the first state to list the dingo as threatened.
Over the past two decades or so, a body of research evidence has grown, which shows that stable, healthy dingo populations have a net beneficial effect upon ecosystem stability. This research coincided with a growing international focus on the importance of apex predators for ecosystem maintenance and presented a direct challenge to entrenched anti-dingo prejudice in Australia. More recently, there has been a concerted counter-reaction from extreme elements within the pastoral lobby in an attempt to discredit earlier apex predator research findings and to reassert anti-dingo dogma.
In collaboration with the Humane Society International, the Wilderness Society, the Australian Wildlife Protection Council, Save Fraser Island Dingoes, Eagle’s Nest Wildlife Sanctuary, scientists, and other groups, we are constantly lobbying for legislative change on a number of issues, the main two being 1/ to broaden the definition of the dingo, and 2/ to cease lethal control, or limit areas where it is deployed.
Other measures to protect livestock have been shown to be very effective, including the use of Maremma guard dogs. Financial compensation for stock loss might also be tried. The cost of lethal control would far outweigh the cost of reimbursing farmers for stock loss.
The most effective form of dingo control however, would be to leave dingoes alone, stop lethal control altogether, and let the ecosystem recover.
18 November 2016
Mattias C. R. Oskarsson1, Cornelya F. C. Klu¨ tsch, Ukadej Boonyaprakob, Alan Wilton, Yuichi Tanabe and Peter Savolainen. 2011. Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs. Proc. R. Soc. B doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1395
 Cairns, Kylie M. Wilton, Alan N. New insights on the history of canids in Oceania based on mitochondrial and nuclear data
Genetica DOI 10.1007/s10709-016-9924-z
 Crowther, M. S.; M. Fillios; N. Colman; M. Letnic (27 Mar 2014). "An updated description of the Australian dingo (Canis dingo Meyer, 1793)". Journal of Zoology. 293 (3): 192. doi:10.1111/jzo.12134.
 SJO Whitehouse. 1977. The Diet of the Dingo in Western Australia. Aust Wildlife Res, 1977, 4, 145-50
 ABC Rural. 2013.Lee Allen: Surprise finding: dog baiting increases stock loss.
 Australian Dingo Conservation Foundation. http://www.dingoconservation.org.au/aboriginal.html
Jennifer Parkhurst. 2015. The Butchulla First Nations People of Fraser Island (K’Gari) and their dingoes. Australian Wildlife Protection Council, Ross House, Melbourne Victoria.
This document was forwarded to candobetter.net by the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program Inc. (A0051763G). On October 17, the Victorian Wilderness Society, in its Wild Chat bulletin wrote: "Hunting Dingoes, Logging Koalas, Pounding Plovers, and Heeding Dr Seuss Bounty brings uncontrolled threat to Victoria’s dingoes." The bulletin concluded, "It now appears the Andrews Government has lost its way, and is taking a regressive step towards failure for both dingo conservation and a balanced resolution of conservation and farming interests." We republish here the contents of that bulletin.
Hunting Dingoes, Logging Koalas, Pounding Plovers, and Heeding Dr Seuss Bounty brings uncontrolled threat to Victoria’s dingoes.
On 26 October, the Andrews Government announced a 'bounty' system—members of the public will now be offered a reward of $120 for every dingo or wild dog killed.
There is deep concern over the impact of a bounty on Victoria’s threatened dingo populations, as well as potentially counterproductive impacts on livestock protection.
Dingoes and wild dogs were previously targeted strategically—in areas where farmers were experiencing stock loss problems. In contrast, the bounty system applies to very large areas—over half of the relevant public land in eastern Victoria is subject to the bounty—regardless of whether livestock protection is required.
The potential impacts of a bounty program are acknowledged, with departmental terms and conditions recognising:
"Dingoes often occur in areas inhabited by wild dogs, appear morphologically similar to wild dogs and are extremely difficult to differentiate from wild dogs. This means that wild dog control programs have the potential to directly impact on dingoes"[i].
The key issue is poorly informed members of the public unnecessarily killing dingoes and dingo hybrids and subsequent disruption of pack structures—believed to result in changes to territorial boundaries and increased risk of hybridisation and stock loss.
The bounty system is fundamentally out-of-step with our changing understanding of the place of the dingo in the Australian landscape. [Candobetter.net Editor emphasis]
Historically, farmers viewed the dingo simply as a pest responsible for stock loss and associated financial and emotional stress. This perception was reflected in government regulations, where the dingo was classified as a pest to be killed or controlled across both public and private land.
More recently, understanding and evidence has grown to recognise the dingo as a top order predator in the Australian environment, providing an overall benefit to biodiversity and ecosystem function [ii]. Research indicates that dingoes can reduce fox and cat numbers, resulting in stronger, healthier populations of small native mammals, as well as regulating kangaroo numbers and their impact on native vegetation.
In 2008, the Victorian Labor Government listed the dingo as threatened. In consultation with a variety of stakeholders, the government catalysed a re-framing of the dingo’s place in Victorian ecosystems and set out a path to balance dingo conservation requirements and stock protection. This decision reflected a growing appreciation around the globe of the role of top predators in the environment, such as the reintroduction of the grey wolf to Yellowstone National Park in the United States [iii].
Then, in a damaging policy development, the subsequent Coalition Government introduced a bounty scheme on dingoes and wild dogs. The bounty was in place from 2011 to 2015, when a re-elected Labor Government abolished the bounty.
And now, in October 2016, we find the Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, reintroducing a dingo and wild dog bounty scheme. It is highly concerning the Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, who has responsibilities towards the conservation of Victoria’s dingoes, has not yet been seen on this issue.
Resolving this issue will require the engagement of both ministers and a balanced approach between dingo conservation and livestock protection, where education and information is provided across both management objectives. Allowing, or indeed encouraging, the public to kill wild dogs and dingoes on public land driven by livestock protection objectives is really only providing half the picture and is setting the dual dingo conservation/stock protection program on a path to failure.
It now appears the Andrews Government has lost its way, and is taking a regressive step towards failure for both dingo conservation and a balanced resolution of conservation and farming interests.
There has been a lot of discussion about the benefits likely from the return of traditional animal predators into the Australian environment. In Victoria Toolern Vale’s Australian Dingo Foundation, Aus Eco Solutions and Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre in Little River have launched the Working Dingoes Saving Wildlife project. Inside is a link to the ABC film reporting this. And we have also embedded another film about the impact of returning wolves to Yellowstone Park in the United States, whence they had been absent for about 70 or more years. The effects were positive and remarkable. This is a short and enjoyable film, narrated by George Monbiot.
Below is a link to the Australian ABC video report on the Mount Rothwell Dingo Project:
Here is the wolf film:
The experience in Yellowstone of the reintroduction of wolves has begun not only improvements in their own habitat, but in other habitats across the world, including the Flinders Ranges. The principle of the importance of reintroduction of a top order predator to degraded ecosystems underpins the quoll project in the Flinders Ranges: for ‘wolves’ read ‘quolls’; for ‘deer’ read ‘rabbits’. While we do not anticipate such a dramatic impact in arid Australia we already know that our quolls are killing rabbits, and there will no doubt be observable benefits for native vegetation in the next few years.
FAME (and DEWNR) are breaking new ground with our project and we should be very proud of ourselves. Other, larger organisations are now clamouring to establish similar projects involving Australia’s very few remaining top predators, but we will always be the first!
Remember when the wolves were introduced back into Yellowstone National Park about 20 years ago?
There was a lot of debate about whether or not it was a good thing.
Compassion was a far more effective environmental management tool than “poison and guns,” award winning ecologist Dr Arian Wallach told a recent conference of conservationists and farmers. And dingoes were an ideal agent for saving the environment and promoting co-existence between native and exotic species. The May 17, 2015 conference, “Dingo – Friend or Foe” was held at Hervey Bay Community Centre, just across the Great Sandy Straits from World Heritage listed Fraser Island where, it was argued, Australia’s war on the dingo began. Three prominent local farmers, Harry Jamieson, Lindsay Titmarsh and James Hansen told the conference of dingo problems, worse in recent years than ever before. (Article by Arthur Gorrie. )
Researcher and grazier Adam O’Neill said the national “war on the dingo” which followed the death of a boy, Clinton Gage on Fraser Island in 2001 had caused a significant worsening of the problems it was supposed to address.
Farmers concerned about problems with dingoes, wild pigs and native and exotic herbivores, in numbers never seen before, needed to ask why government agencies were disrupting natural balances by baiting in national parks and other crown land.
Dr Wallach, whose work has been published in the international journals Nature and Science, said human attempts to manage the environment by killing came with high costs – ethical, economic, social and environmental.
Winner of the 2013 Eureka Science prize (Australia’s foremost research award) for work on the ecological role of dingoes, she advocated greater humility from the scientific community.
“We need to be very humble in what we think we know and don’t know,” she said.
Agriculture needed to focus more on non-lethal control methods, including guardian dogs. But although human persecution was the main threat to large carnivores worldwide, it was not farmers who posed the main danger. “The most dangerous place for a dingo is in national parks,” she said.
“Unlike national parks in other countries where the authorities protect the predators, dingoes are not protected anywhere.
“Foxes are common where dingoes are scarce. Where there are many dingoes, there are fewer foxes. Foxes are strongly associated with the extinction of marsupials. Where dingoes do well, marsupials are also doing well, essentially across the entire continent. Where dingoes are persecuted we get more stock losses, not less.”
She also attacked the “wild dog” concept, which she said was “perfect” as a public relations tool to justify extermination, implying that problem animals were not really dingoes.
“The wild dogs are dingoes,” she said.
Retired beef cattle grazier, agricultural public servant and conservationist Harry Jamieson, told about 80 participants (including three dingoes and one assistance dog) about his experience on land frequented by dingoes, kangaroos and wallabies as well as stock. He spoke as a former president of the Mary River Catchment Co-ordinating Committee, which has been active in conservation efforts for the endangered Mary River turtle, cod and lungfish.
Mr Jamieson said he had operated a family beef property in dingo country and had never suffered any calf losses as a result of dingo predation.
“Often we would hear them howling. Kangaroos and wallabies were numerous. I never shot or allowed anyone to shoot a kangaroo or wallaby. They were for the dingoes.
“You hear so much about dingoes causing a lot of people to incur losses… and you have to have sympathy. Over the years it’s been baiting, trapping and shooting. It doesn’t seem to have made a lot of difference. We’ve got to take a different approach,” he said.
Grazier Lindsay Titmarsh, of the Tandora property at the Mary River mouth told of an unprecedented recent increase in dingo numbers.
He said his family had shot and trapped dingoes at times over the years but they had always been in small groups and did not seem to breed up.
“If you see a dog every two months, you’re doing well, (but) we have shot 16 dingoes in the last five months, that’s unheard of at Tandora. I don’t know what the story is. They just keep coming, from everywhere. We lost 20 calves in one year.”
Dairy farmer, Fraser Coast Regional councillor and a member of the council’s Koala Conservation Committee, James Hansen said he remembered it once being rare to see a dingo.
“Then about 10 years ago, something strange began happening. We lost 30 weener heifers in one year. They cost about $1000 each to replace and would earn $10,000 over their lifetime.
“I really couldn’t sleep at night. Then they struck during the day and took to eating calves as they were born. I don’t know where they came from.”
Mr O’Neill said the evidence from farmers of problems becoming much worse in recent years supported his contention that they coincided with national persecution of the dingo, which he said had started with the Beattie Queensland Government, after the Clinton Gage tragedy.
This caused over-breeding, hybridisation and changes in behaviour.
He said he and Dr Wallach had conducted the experiment that proved his point while managing the Evelyn Downs cattle station in central Australia.
“I decided not to kill any dogs and within two years, stock predation was eliminated.
“You need dingoes to stabilise everything. When dingoes are stable they become invisible and no-one notices the good things they do. People only notice dingoes when they become a problem.
“Stop the baiting, let the dingoes stabilise and they’ll control the pigs and foxes and you’ll save a shitload of money,” he said.
“You’ve got to inquire how these government agencies are running our vast areas of wilderness. They’re baiting for no apparent reason. They don’t have livestock.”
Dr Wallach said consumers were the key to solving the problem.
“Do you want to put your money towards contributing to the persecution of big predators (to produce) wool or meat?”
She said a global “predator friendly” certification system already existed.
“As consumers we have an opportunity to make a choice about the kind of human beings we want to be. Being compassionate and not being so quick to use guns and poison, let’s put lethal control at the bottom of the list.”
Save Fraser Island Dingoes president Malcolm Kilpatrick cut his address short because of time constraints, but said the organisation had sought to make the island manager, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service more free with information and had agitated for an animal care centre, especially for animals injured by humans. There was no real care facility except at the Seaworld and Australia Zoo tourist attractions. Of animals taken off the island for veterinary treatment, only a small number survived.
New problems for old
“As an ecologist I can tell you we do not understand eco-systems at all,” Dr Arian Wallach told the conference, which was facilitated by the Save Fraser Island Dingoes group.
Killing for conservation was a dangerous tactic.
“When we fix problems, we often create new ones.”
Cat eradication on Macquarie Island had been considered one of the great successes, because the cats were attacking native birds.
“Then came rabbit and rat plagues.
“The rabbit plague caused a decline in plants and (as a result of plants no longer holding hillsides together) landslip destroyed birds’ nests.
“Then we spent millions of dollars to eliminate rabbits and rats and mice.
“What have we gained to justify these costs?
“Sometimes we have a win – once or twice.”
Killing foxes to save the (endangered small macropod) woylies was a big success initially.
“They were de-listed, but then we lost them anyway because, instead of being killed by foxes, they were wiped out by cats.
“When we pick out anything by itself we find it hitches to everything else.
“We have cats and foxes and cane toads and there is nothing that is going to change this.
“If we want an environment that includes bilbies and rock wallabies, maybe we have to envisage an eco-system where there is co-existence.
“The problem with cane toads is poison glands on their back. Where they come from predators all know that.”
There were now snakes with smaller mouths so they could only eat small toads and get a smaller dose of the poison. “Birds are figuring it out. They turn them over and eat from the underside.”
Attempts at dingo eradication were another example of ill-thought management.
“Ecosystem survival is determined by whether they have big predators.
“The oceans have sharks, while Australia has dingoes.
“When wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone Park in 1995, they killed some animals and gave life to many others.
“Deer numbers had built up (eating away vegetation on the ground). This had affected trees, birds and beavers.”
A Youtube video, Sustainable Man, which she showed, recorded the return of these species and improvements in river water quality as a result of the re-introduction of wolves.
“Apex predators drive eco-systems,” she said. “But with 94% of large carnivore species, the main threat is human persecution.”
In Australia, dingoes helped promote co-existence between native and exotic species, but “there is no safe place for dingoes, (because) unlike other national parks where authorities protect the predators, it is OK (in Australia) to poison-bait national parks and to kill dingoes on Fraser Island.”
Dingoes helped promote co-existence between native and exotic animals, many of which were here, like it or not.
“Since white people came, Australia is no longer isolated.
“Australia now has the world’s largest populations of wild horses and donkeys and is the only place in the world where there are wild camels.
“There are creatures that have been here for millions of years and ones we’ve brought here.
“What’s an animal to do when it’s brought here?”
Introduced animals impacted the environment by using native resources and killing native animals and plants.
It seemed to be thought that by shooting and poisoning them, “we’ll get a proper Australian wilderness back the way it was.”
“But killing for conservation bears high costs and responsibilities.
“We need to be clear if the cost is worth it, in view of the environmental problems we face.”
Large herbivores were in trouble around the world and many were extinct in their native range, or endangered.
“If we could snap our fingers and get rid of all wild camels in Australia, there would be no wild camels left in the world.”
There were none left in Israel, where Dr Wallach said she came from and part of the region where camels were generally supposed to be native.
They appeared to have originated in North America. “Should we send them back there?”
There were camel relatives in South America and in Mongolia they were “slaves.”
“This is the one place in the world they exist in the wild. If we eradicate them here, we are eradicating them globally,” she said.
I was inspired to write this short article after reading evolutionary sociologist Sheila Newman's multi-species population work on cooperative breeding and incest avoidance in Demography, Territory, Law: The Rules of Animal and Human Population, Countershock Press, 2013, chapters 3 and 4. Newman gives theory plus examples of self-controlled populations in variety of species. My primary observation of dingo breeding habits in their native habitat supports this theory and is supported by it.
Dingoes have the ability to self-regulate their population, and avoid breeding when times are lean, by suppressing their own estrus (female) and testrus (male) cycles. In normal circumstances, the alpha male and female are able to suppress breeding in subordinate pack (family) members, so that only one pair out of each pack reproduces. A stable dingo pack includes the alpha male and female, and surviving pups from the previous year’s litter. These pups have a vital role as beta pack members, who perform the task of ‘alloparental helper’, to wet-nurse, regurgitate food and deliver food (carcasses) for the pups and to provision the mother.
I have personally witnessed a beta female wet nurse pups of an alpha female (therefore the large litter of 8 pups was well provisioned), and have also seen an alpha female assist a young Mother from a different pack by nursing her pups as well as her own. There was also a case of an alpha female who provisioned her own pups by nursing, and then provisioned another (deceased) female’s litter on the other side of the Island, thus altruistically self-sacrificing for the sake of survival of another dingo’s litter.
Dingoes therefore have an innate ability to help each other survive, indeed, help the species survive, by cooperatively nurturing their young. I have also seen adoption of pups between packs, if numbers in the packs are low and beta members required.
When this role is successfully completed, in most cases, the beta pack members disperse to find new territories and make new alliances, bonding with dingoes from outside their own territory and staring their own packs.
Despite circumstances of provisioning each-other’s packs beyond their own territorial boundaries, in stable dingo packs, incest is non-existent. There is a complete avoidance of inbreeding, producing successful population control (to either raise or lower the population as required), promotion of genetic diversity, maintenance of social hierarchies, with territorial boundaries fixed and serving an important role.
However when pack social structure is disrupted, or entire packs are destroyed, this all changes.
I have seen one circumstance of near-incest and one of incest in unstable dingo packs.
In the first instance, the alpha female’s brother, whose own pack was completely wiped out, and who had no other females within his territory, followed his sister around desperately when she was in ovulation and ready to mate. I watched as the sister and her mate attempted copulation, but were constantly interrupted by the brother. The most fascinating observation of their behaviour was that although they were firm with the brother, insisting that he couldn’t mate, they were kind and gentle while pushing him away. The desire for him to mate was so strong that he had little choice but to continue to try and mate his sister, but there is no doubt that if his pack had survived, and he was able to find an appropriate female, he would not have been in a position to attempt to mate his sister.
In another circumstance, an entire pack was wiped out, except for a male and a female pup. The pair mated when they were 10 months old. Dingoes don’t usually have their first estrus until they are 2 years old, and it was a clear indication that there was something very wrong. Surprisingly, the female produced a very healthy litter of 8 pups. I believe she had a large litter to compensate for the fact that the rest of the pack was gone and the population needed boosting. I am convinced this was a form of preservation of the species, allowing for the fact that the carrying capacity of her territory was large enough for 8 new pack members.
These incestuous occurrences only took place because of loss of stable pack social structure, and bespoke of a species in crisis.
The juvenile male dingo was destroyed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service staff this week after it allegedly stalked tourists near Eli Creek on the Island and nipped an 11 year old child.
Spokespersons for the Australian Wildlife Protection Council Inc. (AWPC) and the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program Inc. (NDPRP), Ms Jennifer Parkhurst and Dr Ernest Healy, respectively, stressed that:
‘Such allegations of aggression by dingoes on Fraser Island are frequently subjective, often being misinterpretations of innocent dingo behaviour, and have characterised the mismanagement of dingoes on the Island for a long time. The Queensland authorities have a long track record of manufacturing perceptions of dingo ‘aggression’ on Fraser Island, at times even encouraging a fear mentality against dingoes amongst tourists’.
Ms Parkhurst, a wildlife photographer who studied dingoes on the Island at close hand for many years, stated that, this most recent destruction of a juvenile dingo on Fraser Island, after contact with tourists, highlights an even deeper mismanagement issue.
‘The underlying problem with the Queensland government’s approach to managing the Island, which is World Heritage listed, is the sheer volume of tourists that it allows onto Fraser Island, currently running at well over 400,000 per year. The dingoes are literally over run by tourists, including beach areas which are traditionally places where dingoes forage for food. Efforts by the authorities to virtually confine dingoes to the central areas of the Island, where they can be ‘wild’, without contact with people, are ill-conceived and unachievable. While this prioritisation of commercial values over biodiversity values continues, more dingoes will die and their ability to survive on Fraser Island in the medium to longer-term will be in doubt.’
Ms Parkhurst said hopes that the Newman government would mean a fresh approach to dingo management on Fraser Island have now proven unfounded.
‘Despite a review of the Fraser Island dingo management policy on coming to government in 2012, the current Queensland government has fallen into the same old mismanagement practices. Part of the problem is that there has not been a sufficient turnover of Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service staff to ensure departmental cultural renewal in relation to dingo management on the Island.’
Dr Healy emphasised that the ongoing culling of Fraser Island dingoes is being permitted by the Queensland authorities without sufficient base-line dingo population data to know whether the authorised killing of dingoes is undermining the viability of the Island’s population:
‘Convincing answers are yet to be provided by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service as to the total dingo population of Fraser Island, the population age structure, including the number of breeding pairs, and the genetic health of the dingo population. This is essential knowledge for any responsible dingo management policy. It has been lacking.
At present the authorities simply keep citing a figure of between 100 and 200 animals, a figure that has been blindly thrown around by the authorities for years without adequate research to substantiate it. The fact that the Queensland authorities have only recently put forward a detailed research agenda to address these dingo population questions bears out the inadequacy and potential risk of dingo management practices up to this point.’
The AWPC and the NDPRP are concerned that the majority of animals killed on Fraser Island have been juveniles. Without accurate population data on the Island’s breeding population, the impact of culling juveniles upon the overall dingo population’s survival prospects is not known. Destruction of juveniles impacts negatively upon future generations because they perform an important role as parental helpers in raising subsequent litters and they disperse to form new packs.
January 8, 2015
This is an article based on a complaint from the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program to the Australian Press Council about an Opinion article, “Marauding wild dog packs wreak havoc in outback Queensland pushing drought-plagued graziers to the wall” (Courier Mail (Queensland), December 06, 2014. Statements in the article are made which, by omission of key facts, and encouragement of prejudice, misrepresent the reasons for the decline in the sheep industry in Queensland. This misrepresentation by omission is used to manufacture an exaggerated account of the role of the dingo in the demise of the sheep grazing industry in that state.
Such misleading statements include:
‘Dingo kills were the main reason landholders had switched to cattle.’
‘...wild dogs were largely responsible for the rapid decline in wool industry over two decades.’
Being an opinion piece, and as there is no attempt to balance these statements with any alternative perspective, the statements may be taken by any reasonable reader to also represent the views of the authoring journalist.
Further cursory investigation of the issue would have shown the statements to be either inaccurate or open to reasonable contestation. A recent authoritative account of the structural reasons behind the demise of the sheep grazing industry in Australia, and indeed the demise of sheep grazing globally, was published in the Australian Veterinary Journal, Volume 97 No. 12, 2014, pp. 461-462, entitled: ‘A comment on the influence of dingoes on the Australian sheep flock’, by Forsyth et al.
The authors state:
’The similar rate of decline in the sheep flocks of Australia and other sheep-producing nations suggests broader commodity issues influence the industry in Australia rather than just dingo predation. The five detailed reviews published on Australia’s sheep industry since 19905?9 all attribute Australia’s declining sheep flock to a long term decline in the real price paid for wool compared with other textiles, and to the high cost of growing and processing wool, reducing the profitability of wool growing relative to other agricultural products. A similar conclusion was reached for the cause of declining sheep flocks in New Zealand10 and the USA.2,4 Global demand for wool has been in long-term decline because it cannot compete on price or volume with synthetics and cotton.7 Hence, wool prices paid to farmers have declined substantially in real terms since 19502,5,7,11,12 and particularly after its reserve price scheme was phased out in the late 1980s.5,7 One review noted the importance of dingo predation on sheep in Australia during the 1800s,7 but none of the reviews mentioned dingo predation as a cause of the post-1990 decline in Australia’s sheep flock.’ (Forsyth et al. (2014)
As they stand, the above statements from The Courier Mail opinion piece are a violation of principle 3 under the criteria relating to Fairness and Balance within the Australian Press Council Statement of Principles, which states that factual material must be presented with ‘fairness and balance’, ‘and that writers’ expressions of opinion are not based on significantly inaccurate factual material or omission of key facts.’
The article is also remiss in perpetuating gross factual claims for which there is no sound evidence and which may indeed be empirically unverifiable. The claim of Mr Tully is cited without any serious scrutiny or suggestion that its accuracy may be in doubt: “On my reckoning dogs would have eaten more than seven million sheep”, over the past 20 years (presumably in Queensland). Although the figure of seven million is referred to as a ‘reckoning’ of Mr Tully’s, there is no suggestion by the journalist that it may be seriously in error, or implausible. Again, principle 3 is relevant.
The opinion piece includes a number of extraordinarily emotive statements which, together with inaccuracies of omission and fact, result in a piece of writing that is biased in the extreme, and which encourages the maintenance of a prejudicial attitude towards a native animal which a mounting body of evidence shows is essential for ecological balance within Australian ecosystems. No difficulty would be had in compiling an extensive list of authoritative, peer reviewed articles on the importance of dingoes within Australian ecosystems. Here, principle 6 is relevant, which advocates the need to’ Avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice...’ (my emphasis). Statements likely to encourage prejudice within the opinion piece include:
“Wild dog packs are on the march, and are organised in a kind of animal kingdom military formation.”
“The dogs are taking the life out of the west. They come in wave after wave ...”
Referring to the alleged experience of Mr Tully and his neighbours, the following statement is made:
“One 35kg killing machine brought down 30 sheep in a single night last week at Barcaldine in Queensland’s parched central west.”
Presumably the “35 kg killing machine” is shown in an accompanying photograph, which refers to a dingo which allegedly brought down 30 sheep in one night.
The caption of this photograph reads: “Gavin Durie with a wild dog which brought down 30 sheep in a single night.”
From some years experience in owning and breeding dingoes, the dingo depicted in this photograph is a mature, healthy male, which would weigh no more than approximately 25 kilograms – an average weight for a healthy adult wild male. The claim relating to a 35 kilogram ‘killing machine’ is inaccurate, misleading and likely to encourage prejudice against an environmentally significant native animal (principles 3 and 6).
The lack of balance, omission of key facts, and unsubstantiated claims of the article undermine informed efforts towards conservation of the dingo as a keystone species within Australian ecosystems – an activity which the National dingo Preservation and Recovery Program is closely involved with. A large part of the difficulty in advocating dingo conservation is overcoming entrenched prejudice and ill-informed attitudes towards the dingo in some rural areas.
The cruel changes made by the Napthine Victorian Government to wildlife laws are another reason many might not have known to be glad that its term just ended. It reestablished wild dog control zones across eastern Victoria which go well beyond the three kilometre limit into public land established under Labor. It reintroduced trap types previously banned by Labor as cruel. It introduced a bounty system whereby recreational hunters (including those using bows and arrows) can kill dingoes (‘wild dogs’) for profit across large parts of eastern Victoria and in the Big Desert National Park in western Victoria. Bounties can be taken in the Big Desert region even though there are no wild dog control zones in that part of the state. It increased the period allowed by Labor between trap visitations to 72 hours. Labor had previously reduced the trap visitation time to limit cruelty. it introduced aerial baiting in Victoria, which had not been permitted by the Brumby Labor government. And that's not all.
(Illustration cropped from a photograph by Clive A Marks in an Age article entitled "In wild dog country, all death is merciless," by Melissa Fyfe athttp://www.theage.com.au/national/in-wild-dog-country-all-death-is-merciless-20081206-6sx0.html
The National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program (NDPRP) today congratulated the Victorian Labor Party and Premier elect, Daniel Andrews, on a convincing win over the Baillieu/Napthine Coalition government.
NDPRP President, Dr Ian Gunn, said:
‘In a single term of office, the Victorian Coalition government proved itself incapable of even basic environmental responsibility and good will in a number of key areas. In having merged the departments of Agriculture and Environment, and heavily cutting staff in biodiversity management, the Coalition gave agriculture the upper hand at the expense of the natural environment and put Agriculture Minister (and former Victorian Farmer Federation President), Peter Walsh, in the driver’s seat on many important environmental issues. At the same time, Environment Minister, Ryan Smith, appeared largely ineffectual.’
In particular, Dr Gunn expressed dismay at the way in which the Coalition had systematically undermined the protective measures previously put in place by the Brumby Labor government to protect dingo populations in Victoria under Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act threatened species legislation.
Dr Gunn stated that:
‘Labor had established a balanced and responsible policy framework to ensure that farm livestock was protected from dingo predation, while also ensuring dingo populations were protected. Central to this arrangement was limiting the trapping and poisoning of dingoes and their hybrids to a 3 kilometer buffer zone at the interface of public and private land. Nevertheless, the Coalition appears to have set about undermining this win-win arrangement at the behest of narrow sectional interests who have historically looked upon the dingo as simply something to be exterminated.’
Dr Gunn called upon Daniel Andrews to reinstate the protective measures for the dingo put in place in 2010 under former Labor Environment Minister, Gavan Jennings.
‘Labor has expressed a commitment to correct the environmentally destructive decisions of the Coalition government, such as the reintroduction of cattle grazing in the Victorian high country; we call upon Daniel Andrews to apply the same restorative justice to the issue of dingo conservation. Labor should reinstate its earlier decisions on this issue. Anything short of this would be a mockery of Victorian threatened species legislation.’
Dr Gunn highlighted the Coalition actions which were used to systematically undermine the dingo threatened species listing.
1. Re-established wild dog control zones across eastern Victoria which go well beyond the three kilometre limit into public land established under Labor.
2. Reintroduced trap types previously banned by Labor as cruel.
3. Introduced a bounty system whereby recreational hunters (including those using bows and arrows) can kill dingoes (‘wild dogs’) for profit across large parts of eastern Victoria and in the Big Desert National Park in western Victoria. Bounties can be taken in the Big Desert region even though there are no wild dog control zones in that part of the state.
4. Increased the period allowed by Labor between trap visitations to 72 hours. Labor had previously reduced the trap visitation time to limit cruelty.
5. Introduced aerial baiting in Victoria, which had not been permitted by the Brumby Labor government
Dr Gunn said it was of great concern that, while the dingo threatened species listing was nominally left in place by the Coalition, in real terms, the dingo in Victoria has less protection today than before the threatened species listing was put in place. The ‘wild dog’ bounty is particularly noteworthy in this regard.
Source: National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program (Inc. A0051763G )
President - Dr Ian Gunn BVSc. FACVSc.
Secretary - Dr Ernest Healy
Date: Monday, December 1, 2014
President of the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program1, and animal research ethics expert, Dr Ian Gunn, today, Wednesday September 10, 2014, expressed dismay at the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh’s proposal to undermine measures put in place by the previous Labor government under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, to protect the Dingo (Canis lupus subsp Dingo) as a threatened native species in Victoria.
A central issue for the NDPRP, Dr Gunn said, concerns the Minister’s abolition of a 3 kilometre boundary, or ‘buffer zone’, at the interface of public and private land, within which dingoes can be legally controlled (trapped, poisoned or shot) to protect farm livestock from predation. Up to now, dingoes have been protected beyond 3 kilometres, unless special permission was acquired from departmental environmental authorities.
The altered provisions will allow the killing of dingoes beyond 3 kilometres. This buffer zone reflected the decision of the then Minister for the Environment, Gavan Jennings, in 2010 that the three kilometre buffer zone represented a workable compromise between protecting dingo populations and protection of farm stock. The three kilometre buffer zone was given legal standing as part of the provisions of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and was arrived at after extensive stakeholder consultation throughout 2009.
Dr Gunn stated that a number of fundamental questions are raised about the integrity of the way in which threatened species provisions are dealt with in Victoria as a result of Minister Walsh’s alteration of the measures put in place to protect the Dingo in Victoria:
• Only 12 months ago, in September 2013, Minister Walsh renewed the existing dingo threatened species protection measures, including the 3 kilometre buffer zone, for a further 5 years. What could have changed so dramatically in the recent period to alter his 2013 decision that this was an appropriate measure?
• The Minister’s actions appear to indicate an unwillingness to conduct open and transparent government in relation to the natural environment. The existing dingo protection measures were put in place under the previous Labor government as a result of extensive, drawn out consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including farming and environmental organisations. Yet, the measures are now being hastily removed without any comparable level of consultation.
Dr Gunn reminded the Minister of his obligation to govern in the interests of all Victorians, and for the protection of the natural environment, and not for the benefit of special sectional interests, and called upon any future Victorian Labor government to reinstate the previous provisions of the dingo threatened species listing.
Contact: Dr Ian Gunn BVSc. FACVSc.0427 387778 (mob.)[email protected]
A spokesperson for the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program (NDPRP) today,Thursday, August 21st, 2014, expressed concern and disappointment that the Gympie Regional Council appears to have exercised no independence of thought in adopting a ‘Wild Dog’ control plan, which is ill-informed and based largely on prejudice.
NDPRP Secretary, Dr Ernest Healy, stated that the NDPRP is disappointed that the Gympie Regional Council has adopted a ‘wild dog’ control plan with justifications that are either now shown by scientific research to be false or based on a selective, unbalanced consideration of the available scientific evidence. He said that, "In doing so, the Council is perpetuating a misguided and alarmist perspective on ‘wild dogs’, or dingoes, which ignores their importance for health of ecosystems."
"It is unfortunate that, in adopting the ‘wild dog’ control plan, the Council is taking an extremist position towards dingoes and dingo conservation. This controversy has arisen because of a growing body of environmental research, which highlights the importance of conserving dingo populations (and their hybrids) for environmental balance, on the one hand, and long-established anti-dingo or ‘wild-dog’ sentiment amongst elements of the pastoral industry, on the other hand, who deem the dingo to be a pest animal to be eradicated or, at least, controlled through lethal means at a landscape level. The legal status of the dingo across much of Australia still largely reflects this historically entrenched pest-animal perspective.
Dr Healy added that it is disappointing that the Gympie Regional Council has adopted a policy framework that obscures the fact that ‘wild dogs’ are native animals. They are dingoes. He said,
‘"A key consideration from a nature conservation point of view is the ecological function of dingo populations, even if they have undergone some degree of hybridisation. If the role played in the natural environment by hybridised populations is essentially the same as the pre-European dingo, then considerations of genetic purity become an unnecessary distraction."
According to the NDPRP, this approach is supported by the fact that much of the in-the-field research into the role of the dingo in maintaining ecological balance, as a top order predator, has been conducted with populations that were almost certainly hybridised to some degree. There is currently no convincing research to show that the levels of hybridisation that have occurred present a biodiversity risk within Australian ecosystems, as is suggested in the Council’s policy.
While always open to new findings of genuine scientific endeavour, the NDPRP considers that virtually the only environmental scientists in Australia who fundamentally contest the idea that dingo populations provide a net benefit to the health of Australian ecosystems are those closely aligned to, or supported by, the pastoral industry and who are therefore facing a serious conflict of interest.
Dr Healy stated that:
‘‘The NDPRP encourages the Gympie Regional Council to follow the progressive lead of primary industries authorities in Victoria, where ‘wild dogs’, or dingoes, are recognised for their positive environmental role.’
Recent Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries documentation states:
‘‘We regard wild dogs/dingoes as Top Order Carnivores that all healthy ecosystems need, and we will make all attempts to ensure these animals are not targeted [by fox control programs].’ (Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries – Powerpoint Presentation, Southern Ark Project)
Jennifer Parkhurst, Rainbow Breach QLD (Vice President NDPRP)
Ernest Healy, (Secretary NDPRP)
President of the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program, and animal research ethics expert, Dr Ian Gunn, stated today, Wednesday 20 August, 2014, that the recent destruction of three sub-adult dingoes on Fraser Island for an alleged ‘savage’ attack is a poor reflection upon the new Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service dingo management strategy.
After the recently concluded review of the Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy, which commenced in 2012 as a result of widespread public concern over the well-being of the Island’s dingo population,
'it is disappointing to find that the old ‘search and destroy’ response by the QPWS is continuing,’ Dr Gunn commented.
A key criticism of the previous dingo management strategy was that the QPWS systematically exaggerated the severity of incidents between dingoes and persons on the Island, resulting in the unnecessary destruction of many dingoes for minor incidents, mostly involving juveniles and sub-adult dingoes. The destruction of dingoes in these circumstances has been of long-standing concern to the NDPRP because QPWS research into the size and age/sex composition of the Fraser Island dingo population has been, and appears still to be, deficient and ad hoc.
‘The continued, incremental destruction of dingoes on Fraser Island is potentially threatening to the longer-term viability of the dingo population, given that the QPWS does not know the numbers of dingoes on the Island, including the number of breeding pairs, with sufficient certainty for good wildlife management’, Dr Gunn said.
While the NDPRP had hoped that the recently-concluded review of the Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy would improve the quality of the QPWS stewardship of the Island’s dingo population, it is now disappointed to find management falling back upon previous practices, which had little regard for conservation outcomes.
Dr Gunn highlighted the cautionary tone of the 2009 Audit of the Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy by Dingo expert, Dr Laurie Corbett, who stressed population data collection as,
‘... vital in estimating the current size and distribution of the Island dingo population, and thus
assessment of whether or not dingo numbers have been culled below a naturally sustainable level. (FIDMS Audit, 2009, p. 9)
Jane Goodall and Dingo Conservation
Australia has just had a visit by world renowned primatologist and threatened species advocate Jane Goodall. While in Melbourne, she entered the debate surrounding dingo conservation, making a number of public statements and issuing a media statement which commented on the issue.
It is not surprising that Jane Goodall would advocate for threatened species while in Australia. However, her intervention on dingo conservation is problematic as not all dingo conservation advocates and their organisations base their case on the assumption that the dingo is a threatened species. Goodall appears to have adopted a less progressive position on dingo conservation than was immediately apparent to the general public, or perhaps than she was aware of.
In a nutshell, the controversy surrounding dingo conservation has been underpinned by a growing body of environmental research, which highlights the importance of conserving dingo populations for environmental balance, on the one hand, and long-established anti-dingo or ‘wild-dog’ sentiment amongst elements of the pastoral industry, on the other hand, who deem the dingo to be a pest animal to be eradicated or, at least, controlled through lethal means at a landscape level. The legal status of the dingo across much of Australia largely reflects this historically entrenched pest-animal perspective. Victoria is something of an exception, where the dingo was listed as a threatened native taxon in 2010 and ‘wild-dog’ control is geographically constrained as a result.
The growing dissonance between environmental research, which concludes that dingo conservation within ecosystems should be harnessed in the service of good environmental management, and established pest animal legislation is complicated by the fact that dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) hybridise with their domestic counterpart, the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).
Pastoral industry advocates, concerned to fend off the idea that dingoes should not be managed simply as pests, but an environmental asset, have latched hold of hybridisation to argue that what currently exists in the wild are not dingoes, but hybrids, which ought not be considered indigenous or wildlife, and are therefore ineligible for protection. It is at times further argued that in controlling hybrids through ‘wild-dog’ control (poisoning and trapping on a large scale) protection is afforded to remnant ‘pure’ dingoes. Indeed, current purity testing techniques show hybridisation to be widespread, particularly in south eastern Australia.
So, where does this leave dingo conservation advocates, including Jane Goodall’s dingo intervention? One view is that the key task at hand is to locate and protect remnant ‘pure’ dingo populations. This, however, implies that, from a conservation perspective, wild hybrid populations are a threat to be managed, or controlled. ‘Pure’ dingo populations would need to be isolated from hybrid populations. Elements of the farming lobby have support this view. Adherence to this perspective also has significant consequences for where dingoes can be conserved. If dingo purity data is to be believed, hybridisation is widespread throughout much of south eastern Australia. Unless it is possible to completely eradicate wild hybrid populations across south eastern Australia, and then seed the landscape with pure dingo stock, or genetically isolate remnant pockets of ‘pure’ dingoes, wave goodbye to dingo conservation there.
An alternative dingo conservation perspective is one that accommodates the reality of hybridisation in defining what is to be conserved. The key consideration from this perspective is the ecological function of wild populations, even if they have undergone some degree of hybridisation. If the role played in the natural environment by hybridised populations is essentially the same as the pre-European dingo, then considerations of genetic purity become an unnecessary distraction. This approach is lent support by the fact that much of the in-the-field research into the role of the dingo in maintaining top-down ecological balance, as a top order predator, has been conducted with populations that were probably hybridised. There is currently no research to show that hybridisation presents a biodiversity risk within Australian ecosystems.
Another consideration in evaluating these different dingo conservation perspectives is the uncertainty involved with current dingo purity testing techniques. Two approaches are in use. The older method involved making a large number of fine measurements from an assumed representative sample of dingo skulls, and creating a skull profile that is presumed to represent pure dingoes. Any particular skull being tested is then compared for conformity with this profile. The other, more recent method compares key genetic markers from extant dingoes/dingo hybrids with a genetic benchmark that has been derived from a sample of dingoes presumed to have been pure. The real limitation of both of these methods is that there is no pre-European representative sample of either, skulls or genetic make-up. It may never be possible to overcome this limitation. In addition to this uncertainty, ‘pure’ dingoes and dingo hybrids are not readily distinguishable in appearance. Dingo researcher, Dr Laurie Corbett, once commented that although he believed dingoes in north eastern Victoria had undergone some hybridisation, this was not visually apparent. He speculated that this was because the strong selection pressure for survival in this region was effectively pushing the hybrids back into an ancestral conformation.
It is fair to say that, over time, the foremost dingo advocacy organisations have gravitated away from a preoccupation with genetic purity towards the ecological function perspective in deciding what conservation strategies and legislative change should be pursued. Possibly the most developed policy position is that of the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program. This organisation makes a distinction between the remnant ‘ancestral dingo’ populations, representative of the pre-European type and the ‘modern dingo’, which encompasses wild populations that perform a desirable ecological role, but which have undergone some degree of hybridisation. Ancestral dingo populations may plausibly be conserved in isolated settings, as in island locations, and captive ‘ancestral’ conservation populations are encouraged as a genetic resource for reintroduction where the circumstances are appropriate. The NDPRP sees the main conservation task, however, in securing the protection of extant populations despite the hybridisation that has occurred. This does not mean that reasonable measures should not be taken to limit further hybridisation.
Once it is accepted that the main dingo conservation task is to secure the legal protection of extant wild dingo populations despite some level of hybridisation, and to gain official recognition of the environmental benefits of such populations, the idea that dingoes are threatened with imminent extinction becomes largely irrelevant. The conservation focus turns instead to the negative environmental consequences of dingo persecution through lethal landscape-level control regimes.
Where can Jane Goodall’s intervention be located in this context?
It is significant therefore that Jane Goodall’s statements appear to have fallen within the genetic purity camp. Her public pronouncements centred round the imminent extinction of the dingo and the prospect of hybridisation. The following statement, was aired on Channel 10 News on June 5th:
…I suppose that they [dingoes] will become extinct and the last few will be hybridised with domestic dogs, and the wild dingo will be gone forever. (10 Eyewitness News, June 5)
This basic message was picked up more widely within the Australian media:
While in Australia, she will talk about the need to protect dingoes, now regarded as being on the verge of extinction. (Radio Australia, June 5, 15:31)
A more sophisticated account is contained in a prepared public statement by the Jane Goodall Institute Australia, dated June 5th. This account, however, remains confused on the key issues of purity, hybridisation and ecological function. The claim that ‘the species could face extinction after decades of persecution’ is repeated. Reference is made to the listing of the dingo as threated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, an assessment based on considerations of genetic purity. The regulatory role of the dingo as top land predator is correctly recognised, as is the view of many scientists that the dingo is ‘…ecologically vital for the health of our land and other native species’… . The relationship between the disruption of packs from poison baiting and increased hybridisation is also noted. A serious flaw in this account, however, is that the populations of dingoes which scientists have concluded are significant for ecosystem health are not necessarily pure, but characterised by some degree of hybridisation. The ecological benefit that has been observed has not depended on the genetic purity of the dingo populations. As noted above, once this is acknowledged, concerns about near-term ‘extinction’ go out the window. Conservation efforts then turn to how extant hybridised populations can be accepted under the rubric of wildlife and protected for their positive environmental role. The confused understanding of the issues underpins the Institute’s claim that very few Alpine dingoes remain. This claim depends upon the view that Alpine dingoes in South eastern Australia are particularly hybridised, being closest to population centres where contact with domestic dogs is more likely. However, once one accepts the ecological function approach to dingo conservation, there is no shortage of Alpine Dingoes. South eastern Australia is full of them; they should be governed humanely and protected as wildlife.
A lost opportunity
The Jane Goodall intervention was therefore a lost opportunity to communicate more widely the complexity of dingo conservation issues. However, the thrust of Jane Goodall’s intervention was at odds with what is, arguably, now the predominant perspective amongst dingo advocacy organisations in Australia, as well as the direction of much scientific research which highlights the beneficial ecological role of existing (‘modern’) dingo populations. This is unfortunate. Pastoral industry representative organisations are not likely to be perturbed at the basic message of the Jane Goodall’s intervention. Some may openly agree with it. It is a simplistic, purist view that some dingo advocates held around a decade ago, but have now left behind for a more mature perspective.
One is left pondering how this could have occurred. Was it an informed choice by the Jane Goodall Institute? Would not a high-profile international organisation, which would have invested considerable resources in preparing for Jane Goodall’s Australian visit, have been aware of the competing perspectives on dingo conservation in Australia, and the current state of play between them? Perhaps part of the explanation relates to the Goodall Institute’s focus on threatened species. Did the idea that dingoes are on the ‘verge of extinction’ fit more neatly with the Institute’s established focus? If the dingo is viewed as persecuted, but not in threat of immediate extinction, then the threatened species message loses leverage. Although the net effect on public awareness of dingo conservation has most likely been positive from the intervention, the specific message communicated may stand to frustrate the efforts of the leading dingo conservation organisations which do the heavy lifting in pushing for appropriate legislative change on the issue.
Independence of Queensland Liberal National Party Government Fraser Is. Dingo management policy review has been questioned by the SFID. Why is previous management involved in review of its own record? SFID believes there are a number of high-profile and more suitable ecologists in Australia with experience more directly relevant to dingo conservation who could and should have been recruited to the policy review. The history of dingo management on Fraser Island has been disgraceful.
Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell naive choice of Dingo review team
The Save the Fraser Island Dingo Incorporation (SFID) today expressed bewilderment and concern in its strong belief that the recently elected Queensland LNP government’s initiative to conduct a genuinely independent review of the failed Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy already seems to have been compromised.
SFID has lobbied for years for an independent review of the current dingo management policy, which has been an ongoing disgrace and international embarrassment under the previous Bligh Labor government.
SFID’s concern relates to the engagement of two expert advisors to the dingo policy review process, who SFID strongly believes cannot be reasonably considered to be at ‘arms length’ in evaluating the current policy.
Contrary to the public commitment of the Queensland Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Andrew Powell, that the policy review would be rigorous and independent, the consultancy firm, EcoSure, hired by the Queensland government to conduct the review, engaged Dr Lee Allen as a keynote speaker for a public workshop, held at Maryborough on Friday 5 October as part of the review process.
Why is previous management leading review of its own record?
By no reasonable, commonly-accepted standard could Dr Allen be considered an independent participant. He has been acknowledged and thanked on several occasions during the term of the Beattie/Bligh Labor governments for his contribution to the Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy or for input into research conducted as part of that strategy.
While not questioning Dr Allen’s expertise, his engagement as a keynote speaker at the public workshop, SFID believes, is a contradiction of the Minister’s commitment to a thoroughly independent review process. This belief is underscored by the fact that Dr Allen’s comments to the public workshop could be easily interpreted as an endorsement of the current policy, and thereby potentially influencing attendees whose opinions the workshop was designed to take into account.
Father-son team structure seems too subjective
It is also of concern that Dr Lee Allen’s son, Ben Allen, an expert in dingo ecology, has been engaged by EcoSure, to participate in the Fraser Island Dingo Management review. Again, there is no question concerning Ben Allen’s professional competency. The objection, rather, is that he would be in a potentially conflictual position in evaluating material gathered at the October 5th review workshop, and written submissions to the review, if involved in drafting EcoSure’s report to the Minister. If Ben Allen were to be involved in this part of the policy review, he would be charged with evaluating submission material critical of the current policy, and research conducted under the auspices of the current policy, that his own father has been associated with. Regardless of qualifications and experience, anyone in such circumstances could be placed in a position of conflict of interest. EcoSure should simply not have engaged someone with the possibility of being placed in a position of conflict of interest.
The consultancy firm, EcoSure, ought also be aware that Dr Lee Allen and Ben Allen have recently jointly published contentious material in a professional journal on the state dingo conservation research in Australia, which makes it clear that their views are substantially similar. It is of significant concern that the careers of Dr Lee Allen and Ben Allen have, we believe, been more focused upon dingo control than dingo conservation. This issue is central to the integrity of the review because one major criticism of the current Fraser Island dingo management policy is that it is being implemented as a de facto dingo control policy, rather than a conservation policy.
Review lacks diverse scientific representation
SFID believes there are a number of high-profile and more suitable ecologists in Australia with experience more directly relevant to dingo conservation who could and should have been recruited to the policy review, with experience more directly relevant to dingo conservation. If a more diverse range of expert opinion had been brought to bear upon the review process, the outcome could have been enriched. The current review process potentially represents a missed opportunity.
SFID calls upon the Minister and the Chair of the Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy Review Steering Committee, Professor Possingham, to intervene to ensure that review submission material is evaluated objectively and that the Minister’s public commitment to a genuinely independent policy review process is upheld.
Source: Media release from Save the Fraser Island Dingo (Inc.), October 25, 2012
Dingoes on Fraser Island, Australia are dying of starvation, with sand and grass in their stomachs. One woman tried to alert the world to this and was sentenced and fined for her trouble. On 25th of August 2012 Jennifer Parkhusrt received a national award from the Australian Wildlife Protection Council in recognition of outstanding contributions to the preservation and protection of Australian native Wildlife. What a contrast to the treatment she received from the Queensland government!
(Jennifer Parkhurst's website. More information about donations at end of this article.)
Dingoes on Fraser Island are protected because of their purity. This may be, at first sight an ideal situation and would find acceptance by most people and dog- or specifically dingo lovers. As for the tourist trade it has boosted the numbers of tourists to the island who wanted to have a dingo experience. From the outside it looked very good and only very committed people objectively examined how these beautiful creatures are actually managed.
One of these people is Jennifer Parkhurst and I refer to her as the Dingo Lady who has lived on Fraser Island for seven Years. She loves and adores dingoes and has observed them throughout the island. She scrutinized their behavior and took hundreds of photos of them. Her entire life was committed to them.
Frazer Island dingo pups dying of starvation, eating sand and grass
To her horror she discovered that most of the dingoes were starving and only ten percent of pups survived to adulthood. Stomachs examined of dead pups contained only grass and sand. This is partly the result of the shooting of their parents while they are desperately searching for food along the beach where tourists, who do not know how to behave, make reports of “dangerous” dingoes. But it is not only the pups that are starving. Her photos show adults with all their ribs clearly visible. When the alpha female goes looking for food and returns, her pups run eagerly towards her only to realize that she did not find food for them. Then, they scratch around in the soil to possibly find a grub or they chew on bark of woody plants like rabbits do in drought situations.
There is no game to hunt for dingoes on this island. They have become desperate scavengers and beach combers.
To make matters worse, large areas are unnecessarily burnt, reducing their food source and shelter even further. If one would examine the food remains found in their droppings the way it is done regularly in food habit studies on the mainland, it would surely expose embarrassing results. Often dingoes are ear-tagged and radio-collared unnecessarily as if they were criminals in order to follow their movements on this restricted island. Culling dingoes, especially adults, has serious implications for their family structure and learning, resulting in subsequent misbehavior and breeding problems. If this maltreatment of dogs in refuge and dog shelters occurred, the owners of these shelters would certainly be heavily fined and their shelters closed. What then is the difference on Fraser Island?
What is it about dingoes and women that bothers Australian governments so?
And now back to a REPEAT of the savage miss-handling of the Azaria Chamberlain Case. The dingo lady, who noticed the many starving dingoes struggling to survive, gave some poor animals a few pieces of coconut. For this she was convicted and fined $40.000 as well as sentenced to a 9 month jail term suspended for three years and has now a criminal record! She could just not control her distressed feelings for these ailing animals. The “stone-walling” of her defense and the brutality of the prosecution resulted in her inability to work and she lives now on a disability pension while she still has to pay off her fine. You can make up your own mind as to what the government is trying to hide and why they try to silence the Dingo Lady.
Dingoes were brought to this island by the Aborigines where they became dependent on the Aborigines to compensate them for the dingo’s lack of prey species. In recent years some exotic, large animals were introduced to the island which benefited the dingoes. The Forestry workers wormed and fed the dingoes, and before the island was heritage listed, rangers fed them. Fishermen were also allowed to give the dingoes their offal. But now, all these extra food sources have been removed and there is now no real hunting opportunity left for them.
Please ask for food supplements for the dingoes
I would implore people to write to their local MP’s or the federal minister for the environment, and ask that random food drops be introduced to Fraser Island. I would also ask that people request a complete moratorium on all culling of dingoes. While Fraser Island is in Queensland, and seems far away from us down here in Victoria, it is a Heritage Listed Icon of Australia and belongs to us all. One day you might like to take your children there to show them a world-famous dingo. Without action this may soon be impossible.
I was fortunate to be present when on the 25th of August 2012 the dingo Lady, Jennifer Parkhurst, received a national award from the Australian Wildlife Protection Council in recognition of outstanding contributions to the preservation and protection of Australian native Wildlife. What a contrast to the treatment she received from the Queensland government!
Hans Brunner (M. App. Sc.)
Australian Story featured Jennifer Parkhurst's horrible experiences with the law and her attempts to represent dingoes. You can see the program here: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/specials/dogsofwar/default.htm or just click on the picture at the top of this article.
Donations to help Jennifer pay her fine can be sent either to SFID or to your local Magistrates court. Payee is ‘State Penalties Enforcement Registry’ and her Party ID is: 62883053. Please be sure to get a receipt, and she asks if you would be so kind as to post her a copy of the receipt for her records, she would be most grateful.
Mail can be sent to Jennifer C/O SFID: 50 Old Maryborough Rd Pialba Qld 4655
The magistrate who convicted and so severely punished Jennifer Parkhurst with a suspended sentence and a $40,000 fine was Magistrate John Smith in a case at Maryborough Magistrates Court. Adam Randall , who was Jennifer's partner at the time and fed the Dingos with her was fined only $2500.
Hans Brunner is one of many scientists and other people who have tried to stand up for the Fraser Island dingoes. Australian Story gives others. Another example is:
Dr. Alan Wilton (1953-2011) Prominent Australian Geneticist, Assoc. Professor of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of NSW. Dr. Wilton devoted much of his academic life in studying the ancestry and significance of the dingo in Australia. http://savefraserislanddingoes.com/
Check out Dr Earnest Healey's Dingo Care Network here: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~dingo/ffg.htm
The Lindy Tapes documentary premieres on Channel 7 this Sunday Hans Brunner was the man who finally identified the dingo hairs in the Azaria Chamberlain Appeal in 1988. He also examined the jump-suit she had been wearing and experienced the attitudes of Northern Territory officials involved in the case. Here we publish his remarks on the recent coronial verdict. He is refreshingly candid. He also defends dingos and comments unfavorably on the the fining of a woman who fed hungry ones on Fraser Island. Brunner's remarks add to the evidence that Australians should not just assume that the Australian justice system and media are basically reliable. Nor, particularly, should we assume that the government knows what it is talking about with regard to Australian wildlife. These 'authorities' need to be questioned constantly and those who question them should not be easily dismissed.
In 1980 Azaria Chamberlain disappeared at Ayers Rock/Uluru. She was 9 weeks old. Her mother said that she had seen a dingo leaving the tent. The implication was that a dingo had taken the baby. Mrs Chamberlain however, was accused and convicted of murder.
1988 Appeal overturned convictions based on Brunner dingo hair identification
In 1988, the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal overturned all convictions against the Chamberlains. The evidence of Hans Brunner, a forensic hair expert, was crucial for the overturning of the conviction, since he was able to identify dingo hairs.
Although the convictions against Mr and Mrs Chamberlain were overturned, a coronial inquest in 1995 delivered an open verdict.
June 12, 2012 Second Inquest: Brunner comments
On June 12, 2012 a second coroner delivered a verdict that a dingo did take Azaria.
I asked Hans Brunner what he thought of this and published his response as a comment, on June 13, 2012. He wrote to me,
"Why did it take so long to finally admit that a dingo took the baby Azaria? This result was obvious to me right from the start. Mrs. Chamberlain would have had to be twice as clever as Houdini to accomplish what she was accused of. I thought that it was over and done with after I identified Dog (Dingo) hairs found on the jump suit and singlet. But no, the 'powers that be' did not like to admit that Dingoes can be a danger to children as this could have badly affected tourism. A lot of the scientific evidence given was scandalous and perverted and left the door wide open for a conviction. We can't blame the judges when they were fed with lies.
But now I am elated that the truth has finally been accepted."
Doubt in public mind, re jumpsuit
This statement about the role of dingoes in the fate of Azaria Chamberlain elicited some doubtful comments.
One comment was, "Its not so much that I don't believe it. It's that I don't believe there was no human involvement at all... Someone took her from that tent and the dingos may have ended up with her. It just doesn't sit right ; I'm not saying that Lindy did or didn't have anything to do with it, but I'm just not convinced."
Another comment was, "The biggest question in my mind is how did the blood-stained jumpsuit get off the baby in one piece and undamaged?? Why did no one see anything? Evidence was removed beforehand. There are just too many unanswered questions surrounding the whole situation."
Brunner today on jumpsuit, officials' attitudes, dingoes and injustice
I asked Hans these questions and he wrote the following explanation based on his observations of material for the Appeal. It contains information about police attitudes of the time, which is shocking. One can only feel the greatest dismay at the way Lindy Chamberlain was treated by our police, court and media.
Hans wrote to me on 16 June 2012:
"I have seen and carefully inspected the jumpsuit and singlet as well as many other items in Canberra.
The jumpsuit was soaked with blood and badly damaged in front. I have taken special notice of the ends of the fibers in the damaged area and found them with torn ends and not cut. I was well trained for this as I had to examine lots of sheep wool found in wild dog droppings. When the wool had natural tips it was from a lamb that has not yet been sheared. The others had clearly cut ends.
As to human intervention, I have no doubt that this happened, but only AFTER the dingo took Azaria. I belief that the baby was taken from the dingo, disposed of, and the clothes placed where they were found.
At an earlier stage, just when the clothes were found, I rang the police and offered to examine dingo droppings collected in the surroundings to see whether I could find remains of Azaria in them. I was bluntly refused and told that, "She did it anyhow," and the phone went silent. I was only asked very much later by the Defence to examine hairs mounted on two microscope slides. This was very easy for me since I used dingo hairs as reference sample in my book, The Identification of Mammalian Hair.
As for the skeptics, they probably took only notice of what was fed to them by journalists and crook scientists, while the real information remained hidden from them.
I love dingoes very much. I worked with them while two were in captivity for two years at the Keith Turnbull Research Institute in Frankston.
I am still extremely angry that a women on Frazer Island, who fed a hungry, sick looking dingo, was fined $ 40,000 for giving it some food.
When does injustice stop?"
 Mr Brunner was then a Senior Technical Officer for the Department of Conservation, Forest and Land. He developed the technique for identifying mammalian hair which was published in 1974 and is used around the world. In Australia users include the CSIRO, Government agencies and universities.
Human exposure to 1080 is very severely restricted by law, for obvious reasons. The same does not apply to other species in baited areas. The major animal welfare concern over the use of 1080 relates to its extreme cruelty and its lack of an antidote. The major environmental concern relates to its effects on non target animals, either through ingestion of baits or by secondary poisoning.
Article by Sheila Newman with Maryland Wilson, President, Australian Wildlife Protection Council (AWPC)
1080, sodium fluoracetate, is all bad news
1080, sodium fluoracetate- for which there is no antidote, is cheap and easy to use, but a cruel solution.
(Photo of Eastern Grey joey, "Acacia," by Brett Clifton.The late Dr Peter Rawlinson La Trobe University zoologist stated in 1987 (as an Australian Conservation Foundation Councillor):
“The wallaby does not know the carrots will poison and kill her...they are laced with 1080; she will die and her joey will starve! There is no antidote to the progressively slow and agonising death...as her functions fail...” Photo: Brett Clifton “When ingested, wallabies, possums, wedge-tailed eagles that feed on smaller prey are progressively debilitated and die a slow, agonizing death as its systems fail. Death may ultimately result from a variety of causes ranging from heart failure to suffocation. There is no antidote to 1080 poisoning”.
For these reasons, human exposure to 1080 is very severely restricted by law. The same does not apply to other species in baited areas. The major animal welfare concern over the use of 1080 relates to its extreme cruelty and its lack of an antidote. The major environmental concern relates to its effects on non target animals, either through ingestion of baits or by secondary poisoning... the toxic chemical that slowly kills.
Secondary poisoning occurs when animals, such as birds of prey, eat poisoned mammals. Falcons and eagles are a case in point. Many of these animals are increasingly rare:
"Australia and its territories host 35 species of birds of prey: 24 diurnal raptors and 11 owls, many of which are endemic. Nine species and as many subspecies are listed as threatened nationally and/or regionally....
As predators at the top of food chains they are vulnerable to secondary poisoning and the accumulation of persistent pesticides, and subject to persecution." Source: http://www.birdlife.org.au/documents/OTHPUB-Raptors.pdf
Pets and domestic animals victims of 1080
Dogs and even horses are at serious risk. Here is a case in New Zealand:
"The land treated could easily have been treated for possum control by safer alternative methods, ie. trapping and ferratox in bait stations, as it is NOT REMOTE, NOT INNACCESSIBLE, and NOT RUGGED TERRAIN.
It is obvious from the position of the animal, the damage to its leg, the vomited lungs and the distended veins, that this animal died a horrible and cruel death. Deer have been observed to have tried to rip open their own bellies in their agony, and have inflicted similar and worse damage to their bodies while under the effects of 1080. Dogs are driven insane by the excruciating pain inflicted upon them before succombing to a cruel death. Poisoned possums can travel several kms and may take up to 18 hours to die." Source: http://emigratetonewzealand.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/1080-3/
Dingos are a better idea than 1080
The alternative idea of supporting the return of terrestrial predators adapted to Australian conditions has recently been the subject of serious discussion, most recently and fascinatingly in this article by scientists, Corey Bradshaw and Euan Ritchie: "Can Australia afford the dingo fence?" The authors write:
"...Why do we invest billions of dollars in feral animal control and the subsequent recovery plans for endangered wildlife using the same techniques for decades, when a more proactive and natural alternative exists? It’s a solution mired in controversy because it involves yet another “introduced” predator – the dingo.
...And poisoning is not the answer either. In addition to killing non-target native species, baiting dingoes might in fact result in increased dingo densities due to social breakdown of the pack, resulting in increasing attacks on stock, not to mention a higher likelihood of hybridisation with feral dogs. Baiting also leads to more juvenile dingoes."
Article by Sheila Newman with Maryland Wilson, President, Australian Wildlife Protection Council (AWPC)
Media Release... Exactly as I or anyone would have thought. A hungry dog is more likely to approach people and try and get food, and then they have to be "managed" to prevent attacks. It's all a self-fulfilling prophesy to keep their numbers down for tourism. The fine was more about upsetting the status quo and about having their little scheme exposed for what it is. People living on islands don't usually survive without importing food. Why should these animals have to? "Sustainable" numbers for dingoes is one thing, but "sustainable" human numbers - and their overshoot - gets ignored.
Save Fraser Island Dingoes Inc.
13 Sept. 2011
Dingo Strategy has no bite...
Recent reports obtained through freedom of information suggest that the government has been misleading the public regarding the cause of aggression by the Fraser Island Dingo.
These reports, dating back to 1994 and Commissioned by the Government, clearly demonstrate that feeding is not the main cause of aggressive behaviour. In fact the reports state that loss of fear when combined with hunger, is the actual cause of problem behaviour (Price 1994) and the incidence of stalking is most likely attributed to lack of foods available.
This study confirms what scientists and researchers have been saying for years, lack of food is a major factor in causing unnatural and inappropriate behaviour. A hungry animal can become volatile and unpredictable. Constant trapping, ear-tagging, hazing and destroying of animals disrupts the pack structure which, in turn, leads to anti-social behaviour, but this is not recognised in the Dept. Of Environment and Resource Management's Dingo Strategy.
DERM was aware that limiting food sources, such as closing the dumps, would have consequences. The dump closure...is blamed for starvation (Price 1994), but did not consider it of importance.
The study also discusses the fact that nipping and biting is usually provoked by visitors and that a juvenile dingo's natural curiosity and play-behaviour can be misinterpreted as aggression. Price states, nuisance behaviour is usually associated with a juvenile animals playful character". But again DERM has ignored its own findings and the majority of animals destroyed today are juveniles.
Jennifer Parkhurst, Wildlife Photographer, was fined a sum of $40,000 including a 3 year suspended sentence for feeding starving animals and allegedly causing them to become dangerous. At the time this was considered excessive, as the maximum fine for feeding a dingo is $4000; now it seems ridiculous.
DERM's management strategy is apparently based on the observations of rangers and students during the course of their field work. Jennifer Parkhurst spent 7 years of observations but her findings were dismissed.
In light of this study questions need to be asked:
Why did DERM spend so much time and effort pursuing Ms. Parkhurst in an attempt to denounce her research when her findings were similar to those of their own department?
Why did DERM subsequently use a photograph from Ms. Parkhurst's study on its website if her findings were discredited?
Why does DERM continue to deny that its management was not responsible for starvation of the dingoes when clearly this document shows that the strategy had a huge impact on the dingoes behaviour?
Why is the public only fined for feeding, but allowed to torment and tease the dingoes?
Why is the signage on the Island only warning tourists not to feed dingoes, but no signage warning tourists not to abuse the animals?
Why are members of the public not held accountable for their actions, such as not supervising children?
Why are juvenile dingoes still being targeted for destruction when exhibiting natural behaviours?
Save Fraser Island Dingoes Inc. will be taking these questions, and many more, to the government...
Save Fraser Island Dingoes Inc. Committee
President Malcom Kilpatrick
50 Old Maryborough Rd.
Pialba Qld. 4655
Ph: 07 4124 1979 Email: [email protected]
In terms of environmental management Australia is just a collection of colonies not unlike the days of very early settlement. Policies that govern the control of feral animals and natives that are perceived as pests differ from state to state (and territory).
In Western Australia, it is legal for pastoralists to make a living from the keeping of feral goat herds. Ooops! Did I say feral goats….. they are now called rangeland goats. Will Scott is a pastoralist that keeps a “rangeland goat” herd of approximately 40,000 goats on his 400,000 hectare property near Mt Magnet in WA. This huge collection of one of the most environmentally destructive feral animals is maintained on a property with no fencing whatsoever.
Killing dingoes to protect goats?
You would be excused for thinking that Will Scott’s choice of livestock is a throw back to the 19th century however he does not stop there. In recent times he has called on the state government to increase their efforts in controlling wild dog numbers as they have reduced his “rangeland goat” herd by one half in a matter of 18 months. At this point it should be pointed out that the use of the term “wild dog” is thrown around by landholders freely and collectively describes dingoes, domestic dogs and hybrids. This particular part of Western Australia contains predominantly dingoes but that of course depends on who you are listening to. In a recent article in “The West Australian” a farmer with a property closer to the coast estimated the proportion of dingoes to be 65%, the remainder being either feral domestic dogs or hybrids. A dingo conservationist would more than likely increase that number.
Nevertheless, the removal of our native mammalian top-order predator from pastoral areas is an obsession of landholders Australia wide. Will Scott would have us believe that increasing 1080 baiting programmes as well as increasing government funded doggers is necessary for the sake of his goat herd. Unfortunately our state government has obliged and now pays the salary of 8 fulltime doggers to bait and lay steel traps. The images of dingoes hanging from trees and fences reminds me of similar images depicting wedge tailed eagles or Tasmanian tigers that suffered a similar fate in days gone by. Both of these misunderstood animals were demonised by the pastoral industry of the time making it easier for the general public to accept their wholesale slaughter. Personally I find it offensive that we are slaughtering our native predators to protect the herds of feral animals that provide the income for so few.
There is no mistaking the fact that dingoes and sheep do not mix. Dingoes are notorious for killing more sheep than they can possibly eat and this doesn’t win them any friends amongst landholders. More enlightened pastoralists are looking at alternative methods to shooting, trapping and baiting such as employing the services of guard dogs or donkeys. This appears to be a very effective method in reducing stock losses and surely represents the way forward for this industry.
The dingo's role in Australian ecosystems
It has been demonstrated time and time again that dingoes are an essential ecosystem component on mainland Australia. Where there are dingoes there is biodiversity, where there are dingoes there are relatively few small predators such as cats or foxes. There are also reduced numbers of other feral animals including rabbits and pigs. Last year University of Sydney scientist Dr Mike Letnic published a study outlining the crucial role dingoes play in Australian ecosystems. The presence of dingoes in an area is associated with an increase in the numbers of small native mammals and a decrease in fox and cat numbers. Dingoes are also a key regulator of goat numbers as Will Scott has already pointed out however this is an environmental benefit and therefore has no short term economic value to pastoralists like Will Scott or the government of the day. Unfortunately our government of the day is run by Colin Barnett who also happens to be a farmer of the less enlightened kind himself and as such does not rate environmental issues at the top of his list. One only needs to look at Barnett's track record of staff and ministerial appointments to indicate how environmental issues are dealt with in WA. His appointment of Donna Faragher as environment minister clearly represents a conflict of interests due to her husband working for LNG giant Woodside Petroleum in government relations. Faragher's defence of Woodside's seismic blasting in waters containing pregnant humpback whales clearly demonstrates how obscene the current situation is. In addition, Barnett appointed a Woodside executive as his chief of staff, our mining minister has interests in BHP Billiton and Woodside AND Barnett's daughter in law is a senior executive at Woodside.
Dingo predation of kangaroos
The issue of dingo predation on kangaroos seems to generate differing opinions amongst landholders and those who oppose the kangaroo industry. The science however continually demonstrates that dingoes are in fact a significant predator of kangaroos particularly at the juvenile level. There have been some arguments put forward that dingoes have had little impact on kangaroo numbers however I would suggest this is not the case. It is extremely unlikely that a “herbivore utopia” existed in Australia prior to white settlement. Kangaroos like any other herbivore are subject to predation by a top order predator, this relationship is vital to the survival of both species as it is in any prey/predator relationship throughout the world. Dingoes are also capable of taking down the oldest and sickest individuals particularly when they are hunting in packs. Dingo predation of kangaroo populations at the juvenile and very old level is a natural way of maintaining a healthy population of both dingoes and kangaroos. Contrast this with the kangaroo industry picking off individuals in their prime or just after the juvenile stage and you have a disaster just waiting to happen.
Kangaroo meat advocates will not mention the dingo
Advocates of the kangaroo industry will seldom acknowledge the role the dingo plays (or should play) in the Australian environment. The consumption of kangaroo meat as a green alternative to traditional livestock is trumpeted as a key step towards improving Australia’s degraded rangelands however the dingo doesn’t rate a mention in the rhetoric spouted by scientists such as Professor Mike Archer. He is more interested in resurrecting the Tasmanian tiger using cloning tools similar to those portrayed in the film “Jurassic Park”. Surely we should be more interested in saving a top order native predator such as the dingo who is still amongst us but suffers an image problem due the rantings of goat farmers and the like who would have us all believe the dingo is all but bred out due to wild feral dogs. Public sympathy appears to be low for the plight of the dingo due to the acceptance of barbaric methods still practised when killing these animals. Newspaper articles depicting steel-jaw traps and dingoes hanging from trees do not generate the outrage you would expect for a native animal but then again the public has been conditioned to not really see dingoes as true native animals.
The introduction of the dingo
After all, they are just another dog that can interbreed with our more familiar domestic dogs and they were introduced to this continent approximately 5000 years ago. The important factor here is the role that they have played in Australia’s ecosystems over the last 5000 or so years. It is generally accepted that the arrival of the dingo onto Australian shores and its subsequent invasion of every habitat resulted in the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger on the mainland. The dingo was a more efficient predator and some suggest the tiger itself formed part of the dingoes diet which in itself is extremely varied and can include anything from grasshoppers to the biggest red kangaroo. The newest addition to Australia’s native fauna then proceeded to settle in for several millennia before the arrival of the white man. The dingo wasn’t a marsupial like its predecessor but it wasn’t the first placental mammal to set foot on Australian shores. By this time several species of bats and water rats had already made Australia their home and of course the first Australians: the Aboriginals had been here for a very, very long time.
5000 years is a long time for a species to settle in, the rich biodiversity of the Australian continent as witnessed by the first white settlers is proof the dingo is a true native animal and is more than capable of playing its important predatory role in the Australian environment. The fact that it is a dog is irrelevant. Some scientists argue that even hybrid dingoes can fill that role as long as they share the same behavioural traits that are unique to Australian dingoes.
Using dingoes to improve biodiversity
With this in mind, why are dingoes not included in biodiversity programmes such as the ACT kangaroo management plan? The reason given is that the reintroduction of native predators is not “socially acceptable” however this is not applied to the brutal slaughtering of thousands of kangaroos via the gun. Is herding hundreds of kangaroos including joeys into a pen and then killing them via lethal injection “socially acceptable”?
I have heard that the kangaroo and the emu are included on the Australian coat of arms because neither can take a backward step. If our motto is to only move forward why can’t we apply this thinking when it comes to the treatment of our native animals and environment. From the very first day white people arrived in Australia we have shot, poisoned and trapped any animal that has stood in our way. Today we continue these barbaric actions on an even greater scale in our endless quest to “tame” what is left of our wilderness. As long as state governments continue to tow the line with cattle, sheep and goat farmers and their representative bodies such as Agforce our wildlife is doomed. As long as state governments such as the current government in Western Australia resemble mining company boardrooms the environment will always finish last.
Article republished with permission from Kangaroos Myths and Realities, ISBN 0 9686178 1 3, 2004, available from www.awpc.org.au/ which also contains articles by Professor Peter Singer, Barrister Cliff Papayanni, Dr. Daniel Ramp, Dr. Dror Ben Ami, Dr. John Auty and Kakkib Li’dthia Warrawee’a along with co-editors Maryland Wilson and Dr. David Croft.
Also published as Auty, J., "Red plague grey plague: the kangaroo myths and legends", Australian Mammalogy
26: 33-36, 2004.
Red plague Grey plague
The Kangaroo: Myths and legends
By Dr John Auty
The conventional wisdom is that kangaroo (Macropus spp.) numbers have increased in Australia since European settlement due to cessation of predation by Aborigines and dingoes (Canis lupus dingo), as well as increased availability of water. The historical record shows that at the time of first European contact the kangaroo was numerous and abundant over the continent and Tasmania. The Aborigines were at best poor hunters of kangaroos and quickly incorporated the Europeans’ large hounds into their hunting methodologies. C. l. dingo was a solitary hunter and scavenger. Its lack of capability as a hunter of kangaroos was recognised by the Aborigines who appear to have not used C. l. dingo for this purpose unlike their early use of the Europeans’ kangaroo dogs. Water supplies were largely unimproved by 1860 when Australia de-pastured domestic livestock equivalent to 110 million kangaroos. In 1880 when therewere 240 million kangaroo-equivalents, water supplies had been upgraded only in closely settled areas. It seems probable that at the time of settlement kangaroo numbers exceeded the present population at least threefold.
EXAMINATION of the historical record reveals that kangaroos (Macropus spp.) were widespread in their distribution at the time of European exploration and settlement of Australia and are usually described as being numerous or abundant. This paper reports on a review of records from the 18th and 19th centuries and provides information about the possible numbers of kangaroos during the early years of European exploration and settlement. A previous study by Denny (1980) has shown that kangaroo numbers in New South Wales (NSW) were not as low as commonly assumed. This paper confirms these conclusions.
John White, Chief Surgeon at Sydney (NSW) in 1788 saw kangaroos during local exploratory journeys (White 1962: 129). By 1794 John Macarthur was taking 300 pounds of kangaroo meat a week using one hunter and six greyhounds at Parramatta
Illustration: Adult and juvenile eastern grey kangaroos seen in abundance by early explorers. (Photo: Bill Corn)
(Onslow 1973: 43). At Sutton Forest to the west of Sydney James Macarthur saw kangaroos in immense flocks in 1821 (Onslow 1973: 371). In Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) kangaroos were harvested for human consumption as early as 1804. The usual means was to hunt them with suitable sight hounds, apparently crosses of the greyhound. Kangaroos were in “abundance” (Historical Records of Australia 1922a: 380). By 1808 hunting pressure had driven the kangaroo into the interior. Hunting and loss of habitat reduced populations to such an extent that in Tasmania the kangaroo was in danger of extinction by 1850. In 1814 G.W. Evans was sent by Governor Macquarie to open a road over the Blue Mountains in NSW. Hoping to victual partly on kangaroos he took hounds. Although he saw numerous kangaroos in his passage the dogs, after suffering wounds, became shy. (Historical Records of Australia 1921: 167). Three years later Evans saw numerous kangaroos on the Lachlan (Historical Records of Australia 1921: 614).
During 1829-1832 a series of explorations were made in the south-west of Western Australia. The explorers recorded “numerous herds of kangaroos” (Cross 1833: 67), “kangaroos and birds in abundance” (Cross 1833: 93), “kangaroos and birds in great abundance” (Cross 1833: 96), “heard kangaroos in the night and found numerous traces of them” (Cross 1833: 113), “saw many large kangaroos on the plain” (Cross 1833: 125), “great numbers of kangaroos” (Cross 1833: 143), “plenty of kangaroos” (Cross 1833: 188), “numerous impressions of the feet of natives and kangaroos” (Cross 1833: 190), “kangaroos ...seemed abundant traces in all places” (Cross 1833: 198), “plenty of kangaroos here without going out of our tract we saw at least twenty” (Cross 1833: 216), “The kangaroo must be very numerous in the interior if we may judge from the quantity seen walking in a straight line” (Cross 1833: 221). In the far north of Western Australia in 1838 George Grey recorded that of all the animals present “kangaroos are alone numerous” (Grey 1841: 239).
In eastern Australia, Mitchell in his journals repeatedly refers to the presence of kangaroos and indeed in three chapter headings records them as “numerous”. He describes the taking of kangaroos by his dogs: on one occasion one dog pulled down four in a short time (Mitchell 1839: 322). After entering Victoria he describes many kangaroos as present about the Loddon River. This was confirmed by the overlander Hawdon (Hawdon 1952: 19) who in 1837 saw kangaroos in “great numbers”. After entering South Australia Hawdon recorded kangaroos as being in “great abundance” and hunted by Europeans for the Adelaide market (Hawdon 1952: 60). At Point Lincoln further to the west Captain Phillip Mitchell recorded in 1836 that kangaroos were in “numerous flocks” (Light 1984: 118).
In 1839-41 Chief Protector Robinson made traverses to the west and north of Melbourne (Victoria). Although he argued that the Aborigines had just cause to kill sheep because they had lost access to their gathering and hunting grounds, he repeatedly reported sightings and taking of kangaroos. Almost every European had a pack of hounds, Robinson noted that “kangaroo dogs are at all the stations” and “there is not a station home or out station but the men and the master have dogs to hunt kangaroos” (Robinson 1980: 111). Hall amongst the first of the overlanders into Garriwerd (the Grampians) in 1841 found kangaroos “abounded” in the forests of the Grampians and that “kangaroo soup, in its abundance, ceased to have any attraction for us” (Bride 1969: 268). Rose an early settler in the Grampians, recorded the kangaroo were still “plentiful at the foot of the mountains” (Bride 1969: 321). Writing of conditions in the 1850s, H.W. Wheelwright hunter, naturalist, and writer knew of no kangaroo-ground within “30 miles” (48.3 km) west of Melbourne. At the same period Wheelwright estimated that his and another party shot at least 2000 kangaroos within a short distance to the south-east of Melbourne (Wheelwright 1979: 19).
Illustration: The core of the eastern grey kangaroo mob are freely associating female relatives and their offspring. (Photo: Jan Alderhoven))
In south-eastern Queensland Hodgson an early squatter, wrote in 1846 “it is a pitiable fact that in places where I have seen herds of 300 there is not one to be seen now” (Hodgson 1846: 159). Leichhardt took kangaroo dogs on his trip to Port Essington and wrote about the selection of such dogs. The dog “Spring” the only one to survive almost to the end was the means of obtaining “the greatest part of our game” (Leichhardt 1847: 437). He saw flocks of kangaroos on the Burdekin (Leichhardt 1847: 227), and estimated by their tracks on the watershed that they were numerous (Leichhardt 1847: 260). Hovenden Hely a member of Leichhardt’s party to the Victoria
(Barcoo) River recorded “loads” and “hundreds of kangaroos” (Sprod 1989: 271-2).
The Gregorys, explorers and surveyors, made sightings of kangaroos during their traverses to the north-east of Perth (Gregory and Gregory 1884: 9). Sturt is the only one of the early explorers whose records I have examined who did not record sightings. It is to be noted that he spent long periods in incised river beds and he was on the Darling during drought. He sums up: the great kangaroo did not extend beyond latitude 28: whilst the red kangaroo did not extend beyond the Murray and its plains (Sturt 1849). Giles whilst searching for the Finke in the north of South Australia saw “numerous kangaroos” (Giles 1889: 40).
Although most modem commentators write only in general terms about populations of kangaroos at first settlement Tim Flannery (1994) in the Future eaters is more specific. He reveals a lack of knowledge of both the journals of the explorers and the history (timescale) of geographical and faunal exploration. On the basis of a slight review Flannery concludes: “Clearly, red kangaroos were much rarer early last century than they are today” (Flannery 1994: 214). He relies for this finding on his interpretation of the writings of Mitchell, Gould, and Krefft. Thomas Mitchell as shown above described kangaroos as “numerous” over a large area of his travels. When commenting on the lower Darling he makes the point that the absence of kangaroos (and emus Dromaius novaehollandiae) is “sufficient proof of the barrenness of the adjacent country” (Mitchell 1839: 291). The remarks of Gould in the 1840s are irrelevant since at that time the range of the red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) was hardly known, whilst Krefft’s statement of 1862 can be similarly ignored. To sustain his conclusion Flannery must find other authorities.
Predation by Aborigines
Although there is no doubt that Aborigines successfully hunted kangaroos the effects of this hunting by the small Aboriginal population could have had little effect on the large numbers of kangaroos. Grey lists six methods of hunting kangaroos (Grey 1841: 268-274) to which we can add a seventh, hunting with dogs which Grey, and Grey alone and somewhat ambiguously, describes in the Kimberley. Later authors describe two principal methods of hunting: the surround on burnt ground, and the stalk. Both needed large inputs of energy and the former required a substantial gathering of hunters. The burning of scrub and grasslands may in fact have encouraged the growth of kangaroo populations.
That the Aborigine was not wholly satisfied with his own methods of hunting the kangaroo is shown by his eagerness to take up European methods both on the continent and in Tasmania. On the Tasmanian Aborigine Jorgen Jorgenson is worth recording at length (Plomley 1991: 52)
“the natives had no dogs for hunting ... but when they succeeded in stealing dogs ... or otherwise obtained them, the chase became neither so laborious nor so uncertain. They displayed great natural capacity in the training of their dogs, and they treated them more like children than brutes. They were taught not to bark ... in pursuit of game”.
Reporting from Westemport in Port Phillip (Victoria) in 1826, Hovell states the Aborigines “look strong and healthy and live well by means of very fine kangaroo dogs, for which they have plenty of employment, which not only provide them with food but raiment also” (Historical Records of Australia, 1922b: 856. Mitchell (Mitchell 1839: 204) on the Bogan (NSW?) in 1835 comments on the attempt of the Aborigines to steal his dogs after observing their ability to kill kangaroos. He later presented a greyhound pup to the “king” (Mitchell 1839: 241). A year later Darwin on a visit to Bathurst (NSW) wrote that the Aborigines are “always anxious to borrow the dogs from the farmhouses to hunt kangaroos, the kangaroo ... has become scarce ... the English greyhound has been highly destructive” (Darwin 1889: 321). Inland from Shark Bay in Western Australia Gregory in 1858 saw “several large white dogs which were evidently of Australian breed” (Gregory 1884: 42). Whether these were used to hunt kangaroos is unknown.
Illustration: A group of antilopine wallaroos, the large kangaroos seen by explorers in northern Australia. (Photo: David B Croft)
Protector Thomas of the Victorian Aborigines Protectorate in 1839 was “much struck” by the care with which the Aborigines at Momington in Victoria cared for their guns (Historical Records of Victoria 1983: 538). Their camp looked like a “butcher shop” (Historical Records of Victoria 1983: 541).
Predation by dingoes
Aborigines at the time of first contact had domesticated dingoes (Canis lupus dingo). Mitchell (1839: 347) wrote, “The Australian natives evince great humanity in their behaviour to these dogs. In the interior, we saw few natives who were not followed by some of these animals, although they did not appear to make much use of them”. They were not used in hunting of kangaroos. The reason is not difficult to find. The kangaroo was a redoubtable fighter. The first European experience of this ability to fight off dogs was a report by White (1962: 147) on a mauling given to a large Newfoundland.
Lieutenant Bradley reported that a kangaroo had taken to the water and tore the pursuing dog so much that the kangaroo had to be despatched. Henderson (1832: 138) records the ability of the large kangaroo species to inflict severe wounds. Dogs which had been bested by a kangaroo were reluctant to be set on thereafter unless in superior numbers. Such reports are commonplace in the literature.
Although the historical record appears to demonstrate that the dingo was the universal dog of Australia, Grey recognised another breed in the Kimberley and described it as follows:
“The new species of dog differs totally from the dingo. ... Its colour is the same as that of the Australian dog in parts having a blackish tinge. The muzzle is narrow, long, thin, and tapers much, resembling that of a greyhound, whilst in general form it approaches the English lurcher. ... I cannot state that I ever saw one wild, or unless in the vicinity of natives” (Grey 1841: 239-40). “The dogs they use in hunting I have already stated to be of a kind unknown in other parts of Australia, and they were never seen wild by us” (Grey 1841:252).
Clearly C. I. dingo might cut off immature, weak, or injured kangaroos but as predators they were outclassed by the ability of the larger macropods to defend themselves. It has been suggested that recent work on canine predation of kangaroos shows that at the present day C. l. dingo is a successful predator of kangaroos (Newsome and Coman 1989: 998). The historical record is unambiguous. I have sighted no observations of the hunting of kangaroos by C. I. dingo. On the other hand the failure of the Aborigines to utilise C. l. dingo to hunt kangaroos whilst quickly availing themselves of the demonstrated ability of the Europeans’ hounds to successfully pull down kangaroos, suggests that Aborigines had little regard for C. I. dingo’s ability as a kangaroo hunter.
Kangaroo numbers at the time of European settlement
Having demonstrated that kangaroos were abundant at the time of European settlement and that Aborigines and C. I. dingo were at best of little consequence as predators, I now address the question of kangaroo numbers in 1788. My base is the capacity of native pasture and scrublands to support introduced herbivores, cattle, sheep, and horses. I allow ten sheep-equivalents to each large stock, and 0.7 sheep to each kangaroo. In 1860 based on the population of introduced herbivores (Chisholm 1963) the kangaroo-equivalent is approximately 110 million, in 1880 240 million. In 1860 settlement had not extended into western Queensland, central and northern Australia, and the central and northern regions of Western Australia (Chisholm 1963) . Water conservation was in its infancy, as was cropping and pasture improvement (Chisholm 1963). In 1880 settlement had barely commenced in western Queensland, central, northern, and north western Australia, some surface water storage and wells had been established, but the artesian and sub-artesian basins were untapped, and pasture improvement and cropping as
known today had hardly commenced (Chisholm 1963).
At first European contact, kangaroos were widely distributed in large numbers over the continent and Tasmania. The Aborigines’ hunting methods were wasteful of energy when compared with those based on hounds as used by the Europeans. Because of this superiority European techniques were quickly copied by the Indigenes. C. l. dingo was a poor predator on kangaroos and for this reason was not used by Aborigines in hunting them. The numbers of kangaroos present in Australia at the time of European settlement can be estimated on the basis of the number of introduced herbivores supported on unimproved pasture and browse.
The population was probably of the order of one to two hundred million.
Illustration: Red kangaroos aggregate in loose groups where water runs on to sustain green grasses and herbs. (Photo: David B Croft)