Friday, 25 March 2016

Living with the Dingo by Adam O’Neill

I would like to point out that this book is not about living with the dingo as a domesticated animal. It is about our nation living with the dingo as a wild and important predator.

I first read Living with the Dingo by Adam O’Neill when it was published in 2002 and re-read it now as part of research I am undertaking for the biography of Berenice Walters, the Dingo Lady.

At the time of writing O’Neill’s theories were somewhat controversial even though some earlier studies had been undertaken with the espousing the same they were largely ignored.

His theories are not based on hypothetical desk top analysis. It is based on personal experiences and observations in a wide variety of locations and environments as well as review of scientific literature.

His theory is simple. If Australia is to reduce stock losses and protect endangered species from extinction it needs to acknowledge the important role the dingo has in maintaining the environmental balance of country and take steps for its conservation not eradication.

He give several excellent examples of how the dingo has maintained the balance of herbivorous macropods (in turn conserving grazing lands) and controlled introduced species that prey on small and threatened mammals.

O’Neill advocates a “no poison” program in dealing with predators and justifies his belief that this only increases predation on stock with convincing examples.

This is not a book full of scientific jargon but rather O’Neill’s observations and experience deliver a “Biodiversity 101” lesson at a practical level, explained in easy to understand language.

My favourite quotation in the book is:

Only when we put away the poison baits and concentrate on rehabilitating our environment as a whole, will our endangered species have any hope of survival. The dingo has 4,000 years of experience in managing Australian land systems and controlling the animals that existed within them. I believe the dingo is our only chance for eco-reconciliation.

I believe I have gained more from the book this reading.

Written 14 years ago O’Neill advocated the important role the dingo has in preservation of our small, vulnerable and threatened mammals. The intervening years have proven that the theory proposed by O’Neill, and many others in that period and since, is spot-on yet governments, including government environment agencies continue to ignore it time and time again. The more they ignore the obvious the more small mammals are added to Australia’s shameful list of extinctions.

It was quite controversial at the time but today is gaining considerable acceptance – and yet our governments still haven’t learnt.


  1. I believe the Ministers in our Govt walk round with blinkers on. They refuse to acknowledge the scientific truth when it is placed in front of them.

    1. Very true Simon. The sad thing is that people have been pushing for recognition of the dingo's role in the environment for well over 40-50 years. We seem to have generation after generation of politicians that don't listen or acknowledge. Maybe those blinkers are passed onto each new pollie as they are elected.