Australian Dingos: Eco-Saviours Or Pests?
Dingoes can go three weeks without a drink. This phenomena was recently uncovered in a new dingo-tracking study being carried out in some of Australia’s harshest desert country. Dingoes choose a mate for life and when it’s partner dies, it is not uncommon for the living mate to “mourn itself to death.” Classed as an endangered species, dingoes cannot bark.
For thousands of years dingoes have been a friend and protector to Aboriginal people. Dingoes are needed to balance the Australian environment and scientists say Australia can recover threatened species and eco-systems if we just let dingoes do what dingos do. The pure dingo in Australia could be extinct within ten to twenty years.
For the love of dingoes:
Dingoes have been the centre of a 32 year court case battle surrounding the events of a nine week old baby girl named Azaria, who was snatched from her cot by a dingo, as her young mother screamed “A dingo’s got my baby!”
Instead of being taken seriously, Azaria’s mother Lindy Chamberlain was scorned for being a Seventh Day Adventist pastor’s wife and dressing too stylishly in the dock, as her trial-by-media case proceeded. Outside the court angry people protested wearing t-shirts and placards saying “Dingos are innocent!”
Possibly Australia’s greatest ambassador for tourism and for dingos was Dinky, the world famous purebred singing Dingo who passed away a couple of months ago, aged 14 years old. Dinky was an Alice Springs superstar and even has a question devoted to him in Trivial Pursuit.
Australia’s Dingo Fence is three times the length of the Great Wall of China and stretches 5,500 kilometres across three states of Australia. One side of the fence is sheep country and the other side, in Queensland, is cattle country and home to around 7,000 dingoes (canis lupus dingo.) There is still a $10.00 bounty paid for dead dingo skins.
Dingo Discovery Centre
The Dingo Discovery Centre in Melbourne is home to a number of purebred dingos and they point out some amazing dingo facts:
* the dingo’s joints in their paws are all double jointed, allowing them to rotate their wrist joints, giving them enormous range in extracting eggs, opening gates or doors, etc with their paws.
* the dingo’s head is huge, with a very large brain and extremely large jaw bones. If their head fits into a space, the rest of their body can squeeze through too.
* dingos have peripheral vision of 180 degrees without turning their head.
* dingos can rotate their head right around past their spine in both directions.
* dingos are the epitome of a survivor.
Fraser Island’s Pure Dingoes - Starving
Purebred dingoes live on heritage listed Fraser Island, Queensland, where they are under constant threat from tourists either crossing fence lines and intruding into their habitat or running over them in vehicles, sometimes deliberately. Last week a three year old girl wandered into the dingos habitat, which could have been catastrophic if not for a complete stranger who ran in and grabbed her. The toddler’s parents said they were busy doing other things. Tourists keep feeding the dingoes but complain bitterly when dingos approach unasked, which results in dingoes being culled.
Dr. Ian Gunn says: “Fraser Island’s dingo population is facing extinction within the next ten to twenty years. It is racing towards a catastrophic collapse which will have disastrous ramifications for the island’s native ecosystem.
Population figures released by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) record current numbers at between 100 and 200, with 25 to 30 packs (averaging six to eight per pack). This would account for an actual breeding group of approximately 50 animals (within packs, only the alpha male and female breed).
If this number is accurate (or even if the number is doubled) it falls well below accepted scientific criterion for a viable minimum population of 200 breeding animals. [In Australia, dingoes breed from March to April.]
There is also a severe lack of natural food resources. This is highlighted in the postmortem reports of 90 dingoes that died or were culled on the island. Stomach examinations showed that 37% were surviving on vegetable matter, 30% on fish, 23% on rubbish (plastic bags, foil, meat packaging pads), and 10% had empty stomachs. Only 12% contained any mammals or reptiles” (end of report.)
In April 2001, a nine year old boy named Clinton Gage wandered away from his family and was attacked and killed by several dingoes. Over 120 dingoes were killed by rangers as a result of the incident, though locals believe the number killed was much greater. To avoid any cross breeding, dogs are not allowed on Fraser Island.
In March 2010, three separate reports of dingoes biting tourists were made, resulting in dingo deaths. Tourists have been criticised for ignoring advice from park rangers as they try to provoke reactions from dingoes while taking photographs.
Pro-dingo groups and anti-dingo groups argue whether or not Fraser Island’s dingoes are being deliberately starved out. There is a $4,000.00 fine for feeding dingoes, but Wildlife Photographer Jennifer Parkhurst was recently fined $40,000.00 and a three year suspended sentence for feeding starving dingoes and “allegedly causing them to become dangerous.” To read more: Save Fraser Island Dingoes 2014.
Dingo - Wild Dog At War
In a recently released study named Wild Dog At War, it was revealed “dingoes can go three weeks without a drink. They are not getting their water from a dam (lake), but getting their water from blood and fat reserves in their body,” This phenomena was recently uncovered in a new dingo tracking study being carried out in some of Australia’s harshest desert country where several dingoes from within several different dingo packs are now wearing GPS tracking collars which gives information every half an hour for twelve months, for each dingo wearing a collar.
Sheep farmers call for all dingoes to be destroyed and eradicated from Australia. Cattle farmers take a different approach, they use guns and 1080 baits dropped by airplane. The following report looks at ways for farmers and dingoes to cohabit.
The study reveals dingoes and cattle can exist together (on one side of the dingo fence) but sheep and dingoes can not co-exist as easily, but a breakthrough in co-existance is revealed!. Dingoes and hybrid dogs are hardwired to chase anything that runs and when sheep see dogs they immediately “mob-up” [group together] and start bleating and running . This is like a magnet to a dingo who is hardwired to chase and kill.
Towards the end of the report, sheep farmers Andrew and his wife Glenda, from Tallenbrook Victoria are interviewed about their more than 2,000 sheep killed by dogs in less than 3 years. He said it was heartbreaking to see his loved sheep so brutally injured. One farmer had 30 lambs killed in one night! “Dog bites are contaminated and within a few days the bitten sheep develope infections and die.”
Revealed: Sheep and Dingos Can Exist Together
As a last resort to protect their sheep from dogs, they bought a Maremma Sheepdog to guard his sheep and were immediately so impressed they bought several more Maremmas and the results are amazing! The dogs view the sheep as their companions and happily protect them.
On camera, Van Bommel set up an experiment to prove HOW Andrew and Glenda’s Maremma Sheepdogs protect their sheep. One kilometre away she set placed a drop of dingo urine on a fence post and when she was clearly out of sight and smell, she pressed the timer on the audio of a dingo howl - one kilometre fron the guard dogs.
The guard dogs immeiately turned around and began barking as they quickly marched in unison toward the audio base, They went straight to the fence post with dingo urine, then immediately to the audiio machine. They then did a perimerer sweep of “their” territory. In other words: they refuse to let any dingo set foot on their territory without a fight.
[Maremma Sheepdogs are livestock guardian dogs from Italy. They are gentle with lambs but fiercely protective of their flock. The dogs will bond to ‘a’ family but may display hostility towards outsiders so they are not suitable in urban areas.]
South Central Queensland: Retreat Station/Ranch
David Graham is a sheep and cattle farmer, whose forefathers shot, poisoned and trapped dingos. In one night, dingos and wild dogs can destroy an entire years profit by the amount of sheep and lambs they can kill in a single night. [ A station means a massive ranch.]
Graham is passionate about dogs and has Australian Kelpie working dogs to work with his sheep. Its common knowledge that one working dog is worth the work-load of 4 to 5 men, when working with sheep of cattle. Graham believes dingos have a place in Australia’s eco-envirnment, and he sets out to prove it, saying “There has to be a way to control dingos without wiping them out.”
Scientists say when dingos arrived in Australia, around 5,000 years ago, the apex predator was the thylecine Tasmanian Tiger but the dingo was bigger and a more adaptable hunter than the Tasmanian Tiger. The dingo most likely hunted down their smaller competitor and moved in oh his territory too. Tasmanian Tigers disappeared from the mainland around 3,00 years ago, but still survived in Tasmania.
The photograph of the last known wild Tasmanian Tiger was taken in 1932. During the 1930s the last captive Tasmanian Tiger languished by himself in a cage in the Hobart Zoo, Tasmania, in the 1930s but it wasn’t until 1936 that Australia finally woke up and realised they were about to lose their unique and iconic animal: the Tasmanian Tiger.
After years of lobbying against a government with a mindset of disinterest, in 1936 Australia declared the Tasmanian Tiger should classified as a ‘Protected Species. Protected? There was only one known Tiger left - in a cage in the Hobart Zoo and no mate for him to breed with!
Fifty nine days after being declared “protected” the lonely and very last known Tasmanian Tiger in the world died in his cage at Hobart Zoo. Too little too late. There wasn’t any memorial for him, instead, many hunters wiped their hands of good riddance at the mere thought of him. Little did these people know what they had done!
The stupid error of their ways could not be undone. This animal was now extinct after it was systematically exterminated from existence. In 2014 people still question IF there are any Tasmanian Tigers hiding in the mountains of Tasmania’s wilds, but the answer so far is “probably not.” The death of the last Tasmanian Tiger promoted the dingo to Australia’s top predator.
Dingo History With Aboriginal People
For thousands of years dingoes have been a friend and protector to Aboriginal people where people of the western district kept young dingoes as camp dogs, believing they kept evil spirits away and they acted as security, warning the camp if strangers approached. However as the pups would get older, they would wander off and become independent.
Two hundred years ago, after European settlers arrived, they dug bore-wells all over the country and arid areas had water where there had previously been none. With the availability of water, all animal and birdlife numbers increased prolifically.
Settlers also brought domestic dogs which wandered off and bred with dingoes, producing vicious hybrid dingo-dogs which were fearless wild dogs, attacking calves and sheep across the country.
Warrick, NSW 2013 - new dog problems
In 2013 Warrick recorded more dog-killing-sheep problems than in the last fifty years. One farmer had fifty lambs killed in one night, by one dog. Domestic dogs that go feral are worse than dingoes,
Dogs are hardwired to attack things that run. Sheep run and worst of all, sheep respond to dogs by mobbing up so dingos and dogs don’t stop at just one. Unfortunately the purebred dingo is also blamed by farmers for the vicious hybrid-dog’s actions.
The only thing stopping more wild dogs is the dingo fence. On the Queensland side of the dingo fence, on one station/ranch alone, there are 5,000 to 7,000 dingoes.
The Dingo Fence
Australia’s Dingo Fence is three times the length of the Great Wall of China and stretches 5,320 kilometres across three states of Australia. The wall is one of the longest manmade structures ever built in the world. One side of the fence is sheep country and the other side, in Queensland, is cattle country and home to around 7,000 dingoes. (genus Canis Dingo)
Construction began in 1886 and it was originally built to keep rabbits out of northern grazing lands, however in the early 1900s sheep farmers realised the dingo fence would protect their sheep from dingos.
Quinyanbie Station/Ranch - 3 Million+ Acres
Quinyanbie Staion/Ranch is one of the largest cattle stations in the world: 12,000 square kilometres or a bit over 3 million acres, which is overseen by Station Manager Greg Connors. Quinyanbie Station is located on the dingo side of the dingo-fence.
Connors has been running cattle for over 30 years and runs 8,000 head cattle on Quinyanbie. He says there is a natural loss of 4% to 6% of livestock, due to accidents, health, etc. but on top of that he loses another 25% more to dingos. A cow can protect her calf from a dingo, but when theres eight to ten dingoes all coming at the calf at the same time it is physically impossible for her to defend it.
Dingoe like to chew things and if theres something to chew, they will. This has serious problems when they chew waterlines in arid desert areas, like Quinyanbie. When dingoes chew water lines, waater stops pumping from bores and dams (lakes) dry up and big numbers of cattle die.
When the dingo numbers get out of hand on Quinyanbie, Connors fights back with guns and poisonous 1080 baits which are dropped from airplanes. Hundreds of kilograms of 1080 baits are spread by airplane each year across the outback, resulting in terrible deaths for any dingo or hybrid dog which eats it.
Dingo Tracker: Scientific Research
Ben Allan researches dingo behaviour and the control of them on Quinyanbie Station’s 3 million acres for the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
He currently has several dingoes from several different packs wearing $5,000 GPS collars which allow him to track the dingos from his helicopter. While filming, a dingo keeps pace with the helicopter, pacing it at 60 kms, which shows amazing stamina in desert heat.
The information received from the collars is invaluable in understanding dingoes and finding a solution to co-existance between dingoes and farmers. Each collar takes a read every half an hour, over twelve months.
Dingoes can go for three weeks - in blistering desert heat and below zero nights - without drinking for three weeks! They get liquid from blood and fat reserves in their own body. Research also shows packs are very respectful to each other pack’s boundaries.
On the dingo side of the dingo-fence, it’s all cattle country. Cattle do not bleat and run from dingoes so the dingoes do not feel obliged to have to kill them all. Under the right management cattle and dingoes can live together, however dingoes and sheep who can’t. Ben Allan says the dingoes primary diet is rabbits and other small mammals, at night time.
Allan uses rubber jawed traps to catch wild dingoes to fit them with GPS collars. On camera he removes a dingo’s paw from the rubber-jaws and shows that the dingo is not injured in the process. He gives the dingo’s paws a quick massage and bends the paw around to show the dingo has no discomfort.
Dingo Research - Roxby Downs
Arid Recovery scientific research centre was started fifteen years ago, by a group of scientists. Research takes place inside 70 kms of fencing which backs onto the dingo fence in part. Arid Recovery are conducting crucial experiments to try and find answers in reestablishing Australia’s threatened species and eco-systems.
In one section they have removed all foxes, rabbits and wild cats - which were only introduced 200 years ago with European settlement, but with devastating results. In this section, they have recreated how Australia USED to be before European settlement. In a short space of time there were six times more small mammals inside the reserve with no foxes and cats.
In another section they have an area WITH foxes, cats and rabbits. Astoundingly, everything in this enclosed acreage was killed off!
Scientists concluded a top-order predator is necessary - the dingo - otherwise foxes and cats kill off the small mammals which don’t stand a chance. At the end of 2013, scientists concluded there are an estimated 15 million wild cats across Australia.
Scientists put a pair of dingoes in a 37km-square fenced area with seven foxes running loose and in seventeen days the dingoes had killed all seven foxes. They tried another experiment with another pair of dingos and eight wild cats running loose. Within the same time, dingos had killed five of the eight wild cats.
Along with European settlement, foxes, wild cats and rabbits have interrupted the dingos natural order. A healthy eco-system needs a top order predator to keep things in check. There has to be a way for farmers and dingos to co-exist.
There is still a $10.00 bounty paid for dead dingo skins and in mid-2013 a Liberal MP called for the bounty to be lifted to $200.00 per dead dingo payable to pastoralists with leases below the dog fence. Fortunately, this was not upheld.
Famous Dingo: Dinky
Dinky the singing dingo.
“A Dingo’s Got My Baby!”
“A dingo’s got my baby!” screamed a young Lindy Chamberlain, before bursting into tears and screaming again and again “A dingo’s got my baby!” On August 17, 1980 at Uluru campsite no-one believed the fancy dressed Seventh Day Adventist pastor’s wife. Thus began 32 years of heated debates and shameless sexist, anti-religious, trial by media and corruption of the truth before Lindy Chamberlain was proven INNOCENT in 2012 Coroner Elizabeth Morris ruled a dingo had taken baby Azaria from her cot in the Australian outback 32 years earlier. There were smiles, tears of relief and loud applause from the packed gallery at Darwin magistrates court.
In the end, the treatment of Lindy Chambelain was beyond shameful. The poor woman’s nine week old baby was taken and killed by dingoes and she was falsely found guilty of murder. Lindy was pregnant at the time of being incarcerated and when her baby was born, that baby was ALSO taken from her! In retrospect, the Lindy Chamberlain case was a case study for trial by media.
I’ve seen Alpine dingoes in the high country and they are magnificent. I live near Fraser Island and to lose our dingoes is unthinkable to me. I lived through the Lindy Chamerlain murder trial days and have spent time on some of the big cattle and sheep stations in the heart of Australia. I have crossed through the dingo fence a number of times.
We cannot afford to lose this magnificent animal! I urge all people interested in dingoes to watch the video Dingo - Wild Dog At War. It is put together by a farmer from a big Station and he deals with other farmers, on Stations and farms.
If we lose the dingo Australia’s eco-system will be forever changed for the worse. It is already suffering because dingoes have been dislodged from their rightful place in the order of things. Dingoes hold an important position in our ecology and exterminating them is not the answer, as shown in the video Dingo - Dog At War.
Fraser Island’s dingoes are in critical need of support. For more information and ways to help, please support Save Fraser island Dingoes Inc. Australia is a tough place for animals to live and as David Graham said “Dingoes are the noble survivor in a tough land.”
Thank you for reading,