Saturday, 30 April 2016

A simplified explanation of the Dingo’s situation in Australia

Many overseas friends and readers don’t understand the Dingo’s situation in Australia. As planes take to the air once again to drop 1080 poison across the nation I thought I’d take a look at the Queensland Wild Dog Strategy 2011 - 2016.

I will use it as an example of how government bureaucracy across our nation kowtows to the pastoral industry while making cursory gestures to appease conservationists and ecologists - all at the expense of the Dingo.

There are several definitions in the document but the key ones to remember while reading this are:
  • Wild dogs include all wild-living dogs (including dingoes, feral dogs and hybrids)
  • All wild dogs are declared Class 2 pest animals under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act.
  • Pure dingoes are populations or individuals that have not hybridised with domestic dogs.

Included in the “desired” outcomes about the Dingo are understanding science on dingo genetic identification techniques; managing population ecology and populations of dingoes of conservation “significance”.  (I believe the only colony of dingoes in Queensland they would in this category is on World Heritage Listed Fraser Island)

Confused yet? This is how government uses its ‘dingo’ legislation as it suits the situation.
  • The Dingo is also defined as both “wildlife” and “native wildlife” under Nature Conservation Act 1992. It is a natural source within protected areas e.g. National Parks.
  • Under the Forestry Act 1959 dingoes (being indigenous animal life) are protected but the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994 specifically excludes dingoes from the common mammal (indigenous to Australia) category.
  • Wild dogs and dingoes are defined as ‘animals’ under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 which provides for the control of pest animals only when the control is undertaken in a way that causes the animal as little pain as is reasonable.
  • Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service manage dingoes in the protected areas. Outside protected area dingo is not protected wildlife.

And now to the table of impacts of wild dogs and dingoes.

It acknowledges that feral dogs and hybrids compete directly with dingoes for food and living spaces and hybridisation weakens the dingo gene pool.

It also acknowledges that dingoes limit feral animal populations (e.g. rabbits, goats, pigs, cats and foxes), which in turn may aid the survival of native species and admits that wild dogs may contribute to reduce kangaroo, feral goat and pig populations.

Under the social impacts it says that wild dogs can be a nuisance to householders and tourists but Dingoes have a role in tourism.

As a final point, almost an afterthought, it acknowledges Dingoes have a significant role in the spiritual and cultural practices of some Australians.

So in a nutshell that’s how the Queensland Government sees the Dingo. Let’s look at how they propose to manage the situation.

The strategy examines various control methods.  They are trapping, shooting, baiting with both 1080 and strychnine, fencing, Guardian Animals (guard dogs, llamas and donkeys) and aversion techniques such as strobe lights.

All have some degree of cost and all, except for guardian animals and aversion therapy may impact on non-target species. (Actually it also mentions shooting but I believe that comes down to both the mentality and skill of the person.)

It then examines the humanness of each method. Guardian animals and exclusion fencing is considered a humane and non-lethal.

Shooting is considered humane when carried out by experienced, skilled and responsible shooters. If lactating females are shot, efforts should be made to find dependent pups and kill them quickly and humanely.

Regardless of the horrendous description of the way animals die from 1080 poisoning it CLAIMS the humaneness of 1080 is not yet fully understood. I don’t know how anyone who has seen animal poisoned by this barbaric method can claim it to be humane.

Strychnine is considered inhumane and yet it is permitted if used “correctly” and although admitting trapping causes pain and distress it goes on the describe methods to “increase animal welfare outcomes”.

So what are the desired outcomes of all this - zero tolerance of wild dogs inside the Wild Dog Barrier Fence, control of wild dogs elsewhere in the state and reduction of wild dog impacts in the coastal, peri-urban and rural residential management zones. The final desired outcome is conservation of dingo populations in Queensland. Just a little reminder again that “wild dogs” include Dingoes

In the extensive pages of Strategic Action there is no mention of encouraging or financially subsidising “kind control” methods.

Then we have a few short paragraphs about “conserving the dingo”. Short statements about hybridisation being the greatest threat to Dingo populations and DNA fingerprinting  to detect hybridisation sit in the document without mention of how, when or where this is going to be explored except for liaison with research organisations and application of any new knowledge to management of ‘pure’ dingoes in Queensland protected areas.

I have used the  Queensland Wild Dog Strategy 2011 – 2016 to demonstrated the contradictory status of the Dingo but must point out this situation is not limited to Queensland.

It is a complicated situation across Australia with different laws and attitudes in each State, plus a different set again federally. What they do have in common is that the Dingo is either a pest or a protected species according to where it may live or the whims of those in power.

1 comment:

  1. Such a muddle. I do not know anything about Australian politics e.g. are there 'federal' laws that apply across the continent as well as more localized 'state' laws. I suspect it would help if there was some sort of federal concentrated effort to understand the dingo. Then, if they really do consider some sort of 'limited' control is required they fully legislate for humane action across the whole nation. I hope this makes sense. Please excuse me if I have misunderstood any point. The simple fact they are being cruelly killed is horrible and needs to be addressed no matter what.