Monday, 20 July 2020

Red Tape and Dingo Breeding – Whisty and Snowgoose

Berenice and Snowgoose
It started in 1982.

Snowgoose was a perfect Alpine Dingo, true to type with an excellent temperament. To safeguard against the loss of Snowy's line Berenice sought a mate for her of the same variety. 

Jack Throp, Director of Taronga Park Zoo, suggested Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria had a suitable male.

The first thing she needed was approval from the NSW Minister for Agriculture. This was granted on 8th March 1982.

In 1984 she wrote to Healesville Sanctuary, the Minister of Agriculture, Victoria, and the Minister of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Victoria.

Graeme George of Healesville welcomed the proposal for Snowgoose to travel to Healesville for mating with Alpine dingo Whisty and expressed interested in acquiring one of Snowgoose’s pups.

However, very little runs smoothly when it comes to bureaucracy and Dingoes. The reply from the Victorian Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands of 5th June 1984 stated that the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Board recommended permission not be given because it was against the philosophy of the Board to encourage proliferation of vermin animals.

Never one to have bureaucrats or politicians hinder her endeavours, on 10th July 1984 Berenice replied politely acknowledging the letter but firmly stating: It would appear from your reply that you are totally unaware of the aims and objectives of this Society which has been actively fighting against the proliferation of the Dingo as a Native animal in the domestic environment, since its inception in 1976.

She went on to explain the aims of the society and its stand against exploitation of the dingo.   She pointed out breeding of dingoes by the society was controlled and pups bred for purposes of education and research only, to maintain purity of the breed and its variations also stressing the request was to mate one of the finest examples of alpine bitches in captivity.

It was two months before she finally received a reply. In this letter Mr Mackenzie said since her original letter, Victoria had developed a set of regulations to control keeping dingoes in domestic situations and recognising the place of legitimate breeding programs.

He had reviewed his original decision and agreed to her proposal.

As Dingoes only breed once a year with mating occurring in autumn it would not be until the following year the proposed mating could take place. By 1985, at 10 years old, the beautiful Snowy may have been past breeding.

Snowy needed to spend some weeks at Healesville for the mating. Berenice, her husband Bern, and another society member undertook the then 20 hour return trip to inspect the conditions where she would be kept.

She was thrilled to discover Snowy and Whisty were to be kennelled in the spacious Quarantine Section.  After a tour and meeting with representatives of the sanctuary she had no qualms in agreeing to Snowy's proposed stay.

Local bushfires caused even more delays. Finally, in March 1985, accompanied by a society member, Berenice again made the long trip to personally deliver Snowy and help her to settle in.

They arrived later than expected and Berenice was concerned they may have to wait until morning. She need not have worried. The devoted staff of Healesville, who would be handling and caring for Snowy, had stayed back to meet her, assist with her settling in and introduce her to Whisty. Berenice was very thankful and most impressed.

Snowy and Whisty were immediately attracted to each other.

Berenice kept in contact with Healesville on a weekly basis, but it was not until 8th April that the news Whisty and Snowgoose had mated came through.

All being well, Snowy was due to whelp between 10th and 17th August.

On Tuesday 13th August society vet, Jim Della-Vedova, examined Snowy and noted what could have been one pup, still carried very high.

Saturday morning came and still no sign of a birth until about 12.30 pm when she finally went into labour. It was a difficult birth, but Berenice helped, and Snowgoose finally gave birth to one female pup.

In just nine days ‘puppy’ and her Mum were doing very well and had taken over the kitchen.

"Snobird" returned to Healesville Sanctuary, on loan, with the aim of forming the basis of a project to conserve this magnificent and fast diminishing variety of Dingo in captivity before it became extinct.

It took over three years for Berenice’s suggested mating for Snowgoose and both Merigal and Healesville used this line from Snobird with their own existing bloodlines so both institutions would benefit.

The Australian Native Dog Conservation Society went on to be highly respected as a source of Dingo pups for zoos and sanctuaries and developed several breeding partnerships.




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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Livestock Guardian Dogs at Work

From left: Prof Ray Coppinger, Berenice, Christine, Prof Erich Klinghammer and Prof Gerry Fowler
During her Wolfathon in 1987, with her daughter Christine, Berenice met and travelled with Ray Coppinger. Ray and his wife, Lorna, had become well-known in the USA for introducing livestock guardian dogs.


During their four days stay they were excited to be invited to accompany Ray to farms when collecting pups or advising on problems arising with the dogs. One deer farm where a puppy was delivered had stock killed regularly for months, and despite calling in all the experts in predator control, the killing went on.

When the owner explained his problem to Ray, he said 'no problem', and loaned the farmer one of his females. The killing immediately stopped. It was Ray's opinion the killing was being done by a Coyote female with pups.

At first, they had heard a lot of barking at night, but there were no losses. So impressed were the owners they invested in a pup reared under the watchful eye of Ray and continued to keep the deer herd free from attacks by predators. Just another satisfied customer in the ever growing tide of supporters of the belief stock losses can be cut by methods of protecting stock through exclusion of predators as opposed to extermination of predators whose rights to survival had been totally ignored.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Merigal Dingoes and Taronga Zoo

Merigal Dingo Sanctuary established an early relationship with many zoos and wildlife sanctuaries including Western Plains Zoo, Perth Zoo, Healesville, Featherdale and Taronga Zoo providing dingoes for their facilities.

In January 1994 six pups (three mountain and three tropical) were donated to Taronga Zoo. In turn, Taronga offered their three elderly dingoes to Merigal aged 6 months.




The pups’ enclosure at Taronga had been designed by Trevor Charles, Manager of Taronga’s Australian Mammal Section and long time member of Merigal. It proved to be an attractive and informative display.

There were some problems with settling the dingoes in. The tropical dingoes, with who had wild born parents dominated the domestic bred mountain dingoes.* One fight ended when all three dingoes involved rolled down an embankment and into the moat!











The three retirees settled in well especially Luke who was visited local journalist, Michelle Burrell who quickly discovered Lukey was not the bloodthirsty beast of legend but just want to be friends.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

The Walters Move to Bargo. An extract from the forthcoming biography of Berenice Walters, The Dingo Lady


Berenice and Bern had a longing to live in the country. Instead of the university education Berenice had steadfastly refused, her father bought them a 24 hectare property in beautiful Bargo, 100 kilometres south-west of Sydney.

When they arrived, farming was the main activity in the district with large poultry farms and cropping of peas, beans and other pastures.

Bargo is well known as the place the first Koala was sighted by a white man in 1798 when one of an expedition group described it as a quadruped larger than a dog. The group were also the first white men to see a Lyrebird but thought it was a pheasant. Its ornate tail was recorded, and the nearby district became known as Pheasants Nest. The bird was shot and sent to England by Governor Hunter. 







There was also the first recording of a Wombat when expedition leader, John Wilson, pointed out dung to one of his travel companions. They slept overnight in the district then known as Bargo Brush.

Today, a plaque in the town commemorates the historic first recorded sightings. It is mounted on one of three roughhewn boulders. The flanking boulders carry plaques depicting a Lyrebird and Koala.

By the 1880s Bargo Brush became infamous as favourite haunt of bushrangers and a popular stopover for Cobb and Co coaches on their way south.

Life on the farm for the Walters was hard work but they revelled in it.

It was a life many city folks would not warm to. The mail man only came two or three times a week and parcels to and from Bargo were sent by train and collected from railway stations. Fresh fruit and vegetables, unless home grown, were bought from a travelling greengrocer fortnightly.

Their house, wired for electricity, provided electric lighting and power for a refrigerator but drinking water was rainwater collected from the roof and stored in tanks at back. Water for animals and the garden came from a dam.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Book Review: Dawn of a Dingo Day by Yosef Lasarow

I believe the Dingo’s vital role as apex predator in Australia is the most important message we, as dingo advocates, need to spread. It is the argument that would generate support from people both here and overseas that care about wildlife. Understanding how the Dingo manages the environment and protects endangered species is vital in gaining support for the Dingo’s survival.

Dawn of a Dingo Day focusses on explaining how the Dingo controls the environment, supresses predators lower down the food chain (foxes and feral cats) prevents over grazing by herbivores and protects small, endangered marsupials.

It is a complex topic to grapple with, but Dawn of a Dingo Day gives us the information we need in clear, easy to understand details to help spread the word.

A bonus in the book are the remarkably beautiful dingo photos by renowned photographers.

My rating 5*. It’s a must have.

Available from the Australian Dingo Foundation Store at just $10, all proceeds from purchasing Dawn of a Dingo Day support the organisation in their goals to protect and conserve Australia’s only native Canid species.

Link: https://dingo-foundation.square.site/s/shop

About the Author

Yosef Lasarow was born in South Africa in 1962 and has dedicated his life to a passionate search for truth and the underlying purpose of life. After moving to Australia Yosef has dedicated the last ten years developing his eco-wildlife park, the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park, in Victoria. It was there that he discovered the masterful and essential ecomanagement skills of the dingo and the vital ecological role they play and have played for thousands of years on Australian soil.

www.dingolady.com.au
www.pam.id.au
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Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Dora the Mimic – an extract from For the Love of a Dingo as recorded by Berenice Walters

Dora was always very observant of everything that went on around her, quickly noting any change. She watched and worked out everything that I did. It did not take her long to realise that of an evening I went into the bedroom, and shortly after, the bed became warm. I had turned on the electric bed. Quietly, a short time later, we would chuckle to ourselves as she quietly slipped from the lounge room to curl up in the middle of the bed in a ball, or lay back, head on pillows, eyes large and dreamy till they slowly closed, only the oriental shaped slits visible.

I frequently took a hot bath rather than showering. Dora would usually come and peer in to see what I was doing, but this did not in any way prepare me for what I was to witness one day. 



On hearing strange rubbing and gentle scratching sounds coming from the bathroom, I crept to the door and peered through a crack. There was Dora on her back in the bathtub, no water of course, wriggling around as I had done so often. Then she got up and tinkered with the taps, took hold of the face washer and rubbed her cheeks on it. Then onto her back again ‘splashing’ around in utter enjoyment. She was doing exactly what ‘the Boss’ did.




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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

The Dingo Lady and the Wolf Man

On the 20th May 1987 Berenice Walters, the Dingo Lady, met Germany's famous Wolf Man, Werner Freund. It was part of the fulfilment of a lifelong dream to meet a wolf. Meeting Werner and his wolf packs made the occasion even more special. She was thrilled to observe a man who loved and was loved by his wolves.

Werner had been an Army officer and his interest in wolves and personal involvement dated back 14 years. He told Berenice he had never imagined a human could live closely and in harmony with a wolf pack. 






His lifestyle developed into a unique relationship of understanding, love and trust shared by man and wolves. The devotion and trust they felt for him was mirrored in their beautiful eyes as they followed his every movement, and giving him a joyful, and vigorous welcome when he entered their pen.

Wolf Park was a natural area with only a simple sign to identify what laid beyond the forested entrance. Three wolf packs were housed in large enclosures set on steep slopes of wooded hills

Mostly cautious, but interested in the few visitors present, the wolves were obviously happy and contented, secure in their loving and trusting relationship with the Wolf Man. One black wolf was unsure of them and barked anxiously as a Dingo would. As the Wolf Man moved about the area, the wolves raced around following his every move from inside the enclosures.

There was great excitement when Werner made his way to the gateway, one wolf showing his excitement and pleasure by deep crowing. The whole group leapt all over him in an exuberant greeting while he cradled them in his arms, muzzling them in a wolf greeting lasting a couple of minutes. Then as energetically as the welcome commenced, it suddenly cut off, and he became part of the scenery just like a Dingo welcome.

Berenice enjoyed wonderful hours walking and talking to the wolves in the forest. One responded to her “Dingo talk”, coming down to the fence and rubbing itself along the wire. It reminded her of how her Snowgoose behaved. The wolf then lined itself up for a back scratch just as Snowy did. This was a white Canadian wolf rehomed from the Berlin Zoo. They later learnt this wolf was completely blind following an injury sustained when it fell into a moat surrounding the wolf enclosure at the zoo.
The Blind Wolf
Conversation was limited because they didn’t speak German and Werner spoke limited English. However, they could understand the wolves, and this more than made up for the lack of human conversation.

Later in the evening, Werner took them out to listen to the wolves howling in response to his calls, but unfortunately, it must have been their day off. Aside from a few distant howlings, all was quiet.

Next morning, they headed off with Werner to see the three-week-old wolf pups he was hand-raising as their mother had been unable to feed them. Each pup was fondled and muzzled in wolf fashion before being given the bottle. It was lustily sucked. By comparison, these wolf pups were not as advanced as Dingo pups of the same age Berenice had reared. By three weeks of age dingoes were far more active and independent.

The Wolf Man and the Puma
They then trouped off to a German Army camp to see the Army Mascot, a fine puma Werner cared for. After an affectionate greeting, embracing each other, the puma was fed, and they went onto the Army mess for coffee. Werner was extremely impressed with the objectives of Berenice’s Society (at the time known as the Australian Native Dog Training Society) and the way they were going about achieving them. After many questions about their activities, he handed her 50 marks to join her Society and asked if Berenice would join his group. Berenice was highly honoured.

They agreed all too often, people worked with animals purely for self-advancement, and at the conclusion of the project, the animals were discarded or neglected. Enormous time and energy were needed to win the confidence of captive animals, after which they are often cruelly neglected.

 



She felt sad as she bid Werner and the wolves farewell but comforted by a feeling of hope for an enlightened future for the wolf and other wild canids. To meet another human living with his wolves as Berenice had with her own Dingoes made their trip worthwhile. She felt she was not alone.

Click here for photos of Germany's famous Wolf Man, Werner Freund, and his beloved wolves.








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