#LoveSpecies nominee: dingo
Nominated by: Wildlife Land Trust
Why do you love it?
There’s no shortage of reasons to love dingoes, starting simply with their physical beauty that has evolved in the Australian landscape over several thousand years. It can be a daunting place to survive and many predators (such as the Tasmanian tiger) have been unable to take the additional pressures of European arrival in Australia. But in the face of adversity, the dingo has survived and is, in some locations, thriving. This resilience is excellent news for hundreds of native Australian species including many threatened mammals, birds and reptiles, which benefit significantly from dingo presence due to the suppressing role the apex predators play on feral cats and foxes, which together are arguably the biggest threat to Australian wildlife. It’s this crucial ecosystem role that makes the dingo so important to protect, and at the very least respect far better than we currently do.
What are the threats to the dingo?
For decades the little dingo ‘conservation’ investment provided by Governments has focused on poisoning in an attempt to protect cattle and sheep from predation, with claims that ‘pure’ dingoes are also being protected from hybridisation with dogs in the process. This attitude has been perpetuated by a misguided focus on purity which ignores the vital ecological functions performed by dingoes and dingo hybrids, a growing body of evidence suggesting that hybrids share important aspects of dingo social behaviour such as pack formation, home ranges, reproductive cycles and feeding habits. Both dingoes and hybrids suppress feral cat and fox populations to the great benefit of Australian biodiversity.
Against overwhelming evidence, Governments around Australia still seem intent on eradicating the dingo and dingo-dog hybrids, primarily through large-scale and inhumane 1080 poison baiting programs. Such baiting, often done aerially, is indiscriminate and affects many Australian predators such as tiger quolls and wedge-tailed eagles. In some States and Territories there are also ‘bounties’ for ‘wild dog’ scalps, however with studies showing that it is next to impossible to determine what is and isn’t a dingo in the field, there is no doubt that dingoes are being killed in large numbers through the schemes – a ludicrous use of taxpayer money to incentivise the killing of native species.
As for protecting stock, fracturing dingo packs through controls such as baiting and shooting is, in fact, more likely to exacerbate the problem by encouraging opportunistic feeding patterns and disturbing natural behaviours. With more effective stock protection alternatives such as using Maremma dogs and other guardian animals available, there is no scientifically sound justification for killing dingoes in an attempt to prevent stock losses.
What are you doing to save it?
For several years we have sought the listing of ‘the loss of dingoes from the landscape’ as a Key Threatening Process under Australian and various state environmental laws, as well as preparing scientific nominations for the protection of threatened dingo populations. We are also heavily involved in efforts to improve the species’ only current ‘threatened’ protection under Victorian law, which is undermined by a purity focus and other conflicting laws.
We continue to attempt to turn around public perception of the iconic dingo, and encourage Governments to focus on the bigger picture of ecosystem health rather than getting caught up in purity debates. We have invested in research by supporting PhD candidates looking into the dingo’s ecological role as well as non-lethal stock protection methods to change the perceived need to kill dingoes in the landscape.
Dozens of Wildlife Land Trust members provide habitat for dingoes, with several involved in breeding and caring for the species, and we have also sought representation on Victoria’s Wild Dog Management Advisory Committee in an attempt to enable increased pursuit of alternative stock protection methods and closer scrutiny on the state’s well-intentioned but ineffective threatened listing.