Endangered Species, Environmental Conservation

Protecting Australia’s Iconic Top Predator

It seems we’re determined never to learn that the dingo is a great friend of the Australian environment. In the last couple of months alone we have seen proposals for dumping and then killing dingoes on an off-shore island to control feral goats; a suggestion that we should be selling dingo meat to Asian markets; and calls to bring back a dingo bounty in Victoria.

Emerging conservation science is increasingly pointing to the importance of dingoes as our top order mammalian predator, helping to control both introduced red foxes and feral cats, and fulfilling critical ecosystem functions.  In turn this means that dingoes play an equally important role in protecting a long list of threatened and non-threatened Australian species, preyed upon in almost incomprehensible numbers by feral interlopers. And yet we continue to kill dingoes in large numbers even though a recent CSIRO analysis describes the dingo as ‘near threatened’.

HSI stressed the essential role of the dingo in supressing feral cat populations in our submission to the Commonwealth Government’s draft ‘Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats’, in which we stated, “The weight of scientific evidence is now sufficient to warrant the establishment of a dingo predator re-wilding program as a broad-scale, cost-effective way of suppressing both cats and foxes to the benefit of literally hundreds of species of native wildlife. While it is fair to say that success of such a program is far from certain, its prospects are far more attractive than continued broad-scale 1080 baiting, which although cheap, lacks evidence of effectiveness.”

Dingo by Jennifer Parkhurst_IMG_8737_use freely

We continue to kill dingoes in large numbers even though a recent CSIRO analysis describes the dingo as ‘near threatened’.
Photo credit: Jennifer Parkhurst

The Commonwealth’s final 2015 feral cat plan did not fully reflect our advice, nor did Canberra agree to assess our 2015 scientific nomination to list the dingo under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 (EPBC Act), responding that there was insufficient population data to make such an assessment.

The CSIRO dingo analysis estimated a population figure of greater than 10,000 mature individuals in Australia, all threatened by hybridisation, habitat loss, poisoning, trapping and shooting, noting that the rate of decline in ‘pure’ dingoes, “may approach 30% in 18 years (three generations) across all of Australia, and is ongoing.” It also notes that lethal control programs, widespread across the country, are largely ineffective, and yet we continue to spend millions of dollars every year on such programs because bureaucracies and graziers are simply addicted to killing. It’s what has always been done and so that’s what will continue to be done – regardless of scientific evidence or the obvious conservation imperative. But there are better ways to protect livestock and conserve dingoes.

A growing body of evidence shows that dingo-dog hybrids share many important aspects of dingo social behaviour such as pack formation and feeding habits. HSI continues to argue that as hybrids are performing the same ecological role as dingoes, they should be considered equally as important to conserve in Australian ecosystems. The first step is treating hybrid dingoes as wildlife instead of pest animals, and avoiding compounding the pressures on them through programs such as ‘wild dog’ bounties.

The same selection processes that led to the evolution of the dingo are still acting on hybrids today and we quickly see dingo traits and characteristics assert themselves in these animals. Indiscriminate killing programs don’t just hurt pure dingoes; they hurt the entire ecosystem, which is thrown out of balance when you start shooting apex predators.

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Indiscriminate killing programs don’t just hurt pure dingoes; they hurt the entire ecosystem.

What’s becoming clear to us is that a major side effect of the killing is the significantly increased risk posed to threatened species that occur in areas wherever the dingo is subject to lethal controls. Not only that, but increased risk to livestock as well, with research showing that intact dingo packs are able to hunt traditional prey, whereas individuals from fractured packs, due to lethal control programs, tend to be more opportunistic.

HSI is pursuing a range of campaign efforts on behalf of the dingo, including nominations for the dingo as a threatened species under Federal and state law, and the nomination of “The cascading effects of the loss or removal of dingoes from Australian landscapes” as a Key Threatening Process under the EPBC Act.

We also need a national dingo recovery/conservation plan initiated by the Commonwealth that recognises this iconic mammal’s natural, indigenous and cultural importance to Australia; that incorporates alternative and humane mechanisms for managing livestock conflicts; that seeks to maintain the dingo’s keystone role in Australian ecosystems; and consequently contributes to the recovery of our growing list of threatened native animals.


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5 Comments

  1. Magda Palmer Cordingley

    The flesh traders who call themselves “Farmers” are responsible for killing off our native wildlife. They should not be allowed to kill dingoes or anything else in order to fill their coffers with the flesh of more animals. The Maremma Sheepdog should be on guard of their flocks instead of human using firearms. Bur while our Federal government’s leader and key individuals make money either directly or indirectly from flesh trading they will consider it cheaper to use bullets than buy Maremma Sheepdogs who have also to be fed.

  2. Lizzy Dee

    The same thing is happening to gray wolves, 90 left in the wild, for killing some cattle on PUBLIC land. I’m ashamed to be Australian, nothing has been done for the environment or endangered species for decades. We need an apex predator to keep feral numbers down and their favourite food are kangaroos? again they wouldn’t need to be culled? our native wildlife would have a chance? why are we doing something that started during colonisation and is still being done? farmers have brainwashed regional australia to kill not only dingoes and ferals but everything else as well? they aim for native animals on country roads? Australians need to be educated! our indigenous people (who we could learn something from) are losing their old ways, they’ve been dehumanised because what they traditionally believe in is ignored? these people can live with the environment not live against the environment like europeans do? there are ways of dealing with the very small percentage (2%) of livestock loss? why do we follow what the americans do? I’m convinced if we had different gun laws we’d have NO native wildlife left!

  3. Tatiana N Quinones

    It’s really a tragedy that we protect corporate and political interests more than our precious wildlife, environment, the planet as whole. May we be widely awakened before it’s too late.

  4. Ruth Franck

    Thank you for your efforts to protect dingoes. I was interested in your comments that wild dogs should be considered, especially that general comments are that they are worse then pure dingoes.
    It is difficult to answer people when a flock of sheep are decimated and left for dead. It is interesting that you think that Maramma dogs may be part of the answer.

    • Magda Palmer Cordingley

      The sheep shouldn’t be there in the first place. These flesh traders who hide behind the title “Farmers” should be growing plant based food, clothing and medicines, native flowers for sale
      in our own retail outlets and for overseas florists.

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