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