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Another Australian on the Threatened Species List: The Dingo

Lyn Watson with tame dingo. (Susan Cruttenden)

I RECENTLY VISITED the Dingo Sanctuary and Research Centre near Melbourne. It is located in the foothills of the beautiful Macedon ranges, surrounded by dense forest that is home to many different species of wildlife.

An area has been fenced off and developed as home to about 40 dingoes of all ages, sizes and colours.

The sanctuary is a non-profit organisation managed by Lyn Watson (pictured above), a dynamic lady with a background of exhibiting and judging domestic dogs that has become secondary to her concern for dingoes, which she believes to be superior in looks, intelligence and agility to any domestic breed. Dingoes are threatened with extinction as a result of land clearing, wild-dog control programs and hybridisation.

Now listed as a “threatened species” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the main focus of the Australian Dingo Foundation is to end the slaughter of dingoes in the wild.

Pure-bred dingoes are protected in the sanctuary with the conservationists’ dream of possible re-introduction to suitable wild areas in the future. This canid native serves an important ecological function as Australia’s only apex predator, regulating and suppressing native species such as kangaroos, and introduced species such as rabbits, foxes and cats.

Dingo pups at Toolern Vale sanctuary. (Susan Cruttenden)
Dingo pups at Toolern Vale sanctuary.
(Susan Cruttenden)

Watching the dingoes at the sanctuary we couldn’t help but be won over by their handsome appearance, and distinctive personalities. Although essentially shy and timid creatures in the wild they can be tamed in captivity but not domesticated. The outside appearance of a dog which is the result of a dingo/domestic dog mating is often very similar to that of the dingo, as canis dingo comes from a very strong genetic line.

Dingoes — superior in
looks, intelligence and agility

The delightful Toolern Vale puppies reared and raised at the sanctuary showed no signs of aggression, fear or distrust when we held them or watched their energetic play. Unique physical characteristics such as flexible wrists, head turning ability, superior intelligence, sight, hearing and speed have enabled the dingo to survive for thousands of years, but that survival could be coming to an end.

Would it matter if the only dingo we could see in the future was in a zoo or museum? Who would care if the dingo joined the list of the record number of extinct native animals and the sorry fact that Australia already has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world?

Thirty native animals have been wiped out since European settlement. What has the dingo done since that time to make it so unpopular that the species deserve to be exterminated by hunting, shooting, trapping and baiting as part of the federal Government’s Wild Dog Management Strategy?

Farmers’ complaints rule wildlife management policies

The colonial bounty is alive and well in Victoria

The national strategy is in response to farmers’ concerns about negative impacts of wild dogs. For the purpose of the plan ‘wild dogs’ are defined as “All wild-living dogs, which include dingoes, feral dogs, and hybrids”.

While the plan varies in detail from state to state and may pay lip service to dingo conservation and biodiversity, no real effort seems to be made to ensure conservation is carried out. In Victoria the state has even had the dingo’s native animal classification removed for the purpose of the kill so there will be no impediment to killing it.

Overall the 2013–2022 plan fails to distinguish between hybrids and dingoes, even though only a small percentage, according to scientists and conservationists, are dingoes. Hard to tell when they are alive, as hybrids look like dingoes, and even after they are dead no thorough records are kept of the numbers of dingoes shot, baited or poisoned.

Trapped dog. (Source: Animal Liberation)
Trapped dog. (Source: Animal Liberation)

How long does a trapped animal stay in a trap suffering a prolonged and agonising death?

The Victorian Government must be making an to attempt to keep some detailed records as it promises a reward of $120 for amateur killers of dogs/dingoes upon the handing in of carcases to special collection stations. The supply has to be as a result of a private, recreational pursuit or hobby, and eligible applicants are given gruesome details by the Department of Agriculture as to how they should submit evidence of their kill. It should be an entire single piece of skin and fur running from the snout, incorporating the ears, along the animal’s back and including the tail.

Who supervises what goes on in the bush, far away from chance of being reported? Increase in the number of skilled and knowledgeable National Parks and Wildlife Parks employees needs to be made, instead of relying on enthusiastic amateurs.

Monaro and coast plan – use of 1080 death with terrible pain

Livestock losses to ‘wild dogs’ costs much less
than costs of non-stop baiting with 1080

The East Monaro/Central South Coast Management Plan admits that while shooting is target specific it is opportunistic – not effective as a main means of control.

Owners of domestic dogs that are not securely kept at home must also accept some responsibility for allowing their dogs to run wild. [Ed: Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that dogs are also dumped in rural areas and parks.]

The Dingo Foundation states: “Livestock losses to ‘wild dogs’ costs nowhere near as much as a relentless baiting of our dingoes with the super–toxin 1080”  that causes dogs and other mammals to have convulsions and die in unbelievable pain.

Modern grazing can use proven protective measures

“Government funding would be much better spent by compensating farmers for stock losses as well as farmers practising more up-to-date husbandry using proven protective measures such as donkeys, llamas, camels, flock-guardian dogs and/or exclusion fencing,” notes the foundation.

In his book The Dingo Debate, author and animal behaviourist, Bradley Smith, wrote: “It remains to be seen if the dingo survives or even thrives, or if it is destined to head towards extinction like so many native animals before it”.

Why is there not a greater outcry from the public about the barbaric practices advocated to control wild dogs/dingoes?

Appreciate this unique and wonderful animal that has truly been ‘made in Australia’ as a result of years of natural selection and adaptation to our environment. Campaign to protect wilderness areas and Save the Dingo.


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