Sunday 31 January 2016

If you can’t win at least you can laugh

An article about the Dingo appeared in the 1981 Jan-Feb edition of Archery Action. Berenice received two letters in response to the article. It included a number of comments and claims about the dingo and its control including:
  • If, in Central Australia, domestic stock amounts to only 6.5% of a dingoes diet, imagine how high this figure would be if we did not have a dingo fence.
  • You seem to have a few dingo problems there yourself. A shotgun at close range or .222 243, 270 etc at longer ranges will effectively eradicate your problem.
  • Strychnine laced treacle spread on a dingoes path also is very effective when he licks it off his paws.
  • I do not deny that you are trying to preserve a part of Australia's heritage that has been artificially created by the attitudes of uninformed people. I do not wish to see the dingo completely destroyed, but merely controlled. The removal of the dingo from the vermin class is ludicrous. It is definitely vermin. (Note all this was in the same paragraph of the letter)
  • The baits being dropped are 1080 that has been reduced in strength so the dingoes only get sick, but will not take baits again. It is associations such as yours who are responsible for such things as the reduction in 1080 strength.
  • …… the grazier ….. working for his nation and being hampered (severely at times) by a host of ill-informed associations.
  • I own a Dingo-cross bull terrier/blue heeler, who bears more resemblance to a pure bred Dingo than anything. The first sheep he ever saw he ran it through two fences and into a creek before shredding its face into strips of cartilage and tongue. He has repeated this performance twice since that, and taken on a full grown ram without hesitation. The last one he killed was the greatest mess of a sheep I've seen in a long time; its face was so badly mutilated, and moreover the sheep was still alive, and if you reckon the Dingo gets it tough what about the poor bloody sheep; they are alive too, you know.
  • It's not the bull-terrier in him, as I've owned quite a number of them.
  • They are a good dog as a pet, but the killer has to be bred out if there is ever going to be anything pedigree, or there’ll just be killer dogs everywhere. Taking on man and beast.
In reply to the letters Berenice pointed out the material used in the article was taken from the results of a 10 year program of the CSIRO 1966 to 1976, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dingo Research by A J Oliver, and from programs developed by the Society and its founder since 1974.

She also takes quite a brave stand against the writer recommending the use of strychnine by advising him:  “Strychnine is most irresponsible, as it is illegal, and your name and address have been forwarded on to the Health Commission.”

One of the writers had to have the last say. This is part of his letter:

I also had the misfortune to read your article "A brief guide to Characteristics, Behaviour and Trainability" which leads me to believe you sleep with dingoes!          Due to this I am forced to have serious doubts as to your sanity. I quote "sleeping with a dingo is very warm and comfortable….devotion is shown in many ways…like laying his head on your knees ……   resting his chin on your shoulder for a few moments …..ideally the breed should live in the house as one of the family, taking part in all activities and outings".

The only word for the above is 'sickening', and it shows the decline of human society. How can you possibly include a dingo (merely an idealised killer) as part of a human family? A dog cannot be compared to a child; your whole concept in this article typifies the situation before the fall of the Roman Empire. I am forced to conclude through this article that you have no idea what a real dingo is, or you are so far removed from the reality of the dingo conflict that it is pointless to continue your Society because there appears to be unrealistic people involved in a conflict that involves a compromise between two cooperating human parties.

Berenice’s response was simply: “You can't win them all, but at least we try - and will keep on trying.”

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Kadoka the New Guinea Singing Dog

Kadoka, New Guinea Singing Dog

Leading up to July 1996, the Dingo Sanctuary Bargo’s resident vet and manager, David had commenced his Master of Science degree at the University of NSW on the genetics of the Dingo under the supervision of Drs Alan Wilton and Bill Sherwin and he was extracting DNA from the Dingoes so was not at the sanctuary quite as much. On top of David and the volunteers usual busy schedule:

  • Berenice had a fall and was to be in hospital for two months.
  • A transportable building to be used as the new entrance and shop had arrived and improvements to the  dingo runs had started.
  • Nardoo’s puppies were being prepared to go to Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo.
  • Visitation had continued to grow.
  • A new website had been designed.

It was a busy time for everyone.

Then, out of the blue the phone rings. It was Carol Bach from Taronga Zoo asking when the sanctuary would be taking Kadoka.

Kadoka was a New Guinea Wild Dogs (New Guinea Singing Dogs) who had resided at the zoo and was going into retirement at Bargo. Taronga had been well known for its New Guinea Wild Dogs and supplied zoos around the world. Kadoka was also believed to be the last New Guinea Wild Dog in Australia. He was living in a concrete enclosure in the vet block at the zoo and it was agreed that he could be offered better accommodation at the sanctuary and could also be walked on a regular basis. They readily agreed to take him although there was some concern the Merigal pack would consider him an outsider    

Late in August the big day arrived with Taronga Zoo staff delivering Kadoka mid-morning. He was let out of his crate and into one of the smaller runs but didn’t seem terribly impressed with his surroundings. After a walk to the dam and staff keeping an eye on the bordering dingo neighbours he was taken to a yard behind the house.

Hostie who used to be in this area was locked in one of the very old kennels. With the exception of a bit of bravado from Koori, so far so good but, what to do with Hostie?

Hostie was returned to her yard and introduced to Kadoka. They went about their own thing and didn’t seem to have any problems with each other.

With his friendly, loving ways and some local publicity ‘Dokie’ became a popular attraction and a favourite of the volunteers in a very short time.

Only problem with Kadoka was that he was a New Guinea SINGING Dog and that’s just what he did every time someone he knew arrived. Some unkindly referred to him as a New Guinea Screaming Dog or New Guinea Whinging Dog. Fortunately he settled when no one was around but his behaviour did pose a problem.

The sanctuary had an enthusiastic team of volunteers who attended to the dingoes needs, assisted visitors, cared for the gardens and took care of a myriad of odd jobs.

Dingoes are creatures of habit so there was a fixed routine to reduce disruption as much as possible with feeding, handling and walking being carried out at regular times to avoid undue excitement and disturbance.

‘Dokie knew all the regular volunteers and loved them all equally. As soon as we walked through the gate he would start. The noise was unbelievable! I am sure he could be heard miles away.

How to solve the problem? Easy we drew up a new routine; one that instructed (more like insisted) every volunteer HAD to follow. Number one on the list was “Say hello to Kadoka”. After a few minutes of cuddling and running around with him he wold settle and we could get on with our tasks – in peace.


Kadoka was about 10 when he was retired to Merigal and a sweeter natured dog you could never meet. Sadly he passed away in 1997. During the morning he had appeared to be his usual bright, affectionate (and noisy) self. Later in the day, spying two of his favourite humans he started jumping up and down, screaming, as usual, for a walk when he suddenly collapsed and died.

His body was returned to Taronga Zoo for autopsy. The autopsy and histopathology revealed very little. It seems he died of a heart attack.

RIP ‘Dokey

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Dingo Lady Project - Update

I thought I'd give you an update on the digitising and preservation of Berenice's records. 

The Dingo Lady Project is not limited to writing her biography but a commitment to preserving her records. 

This has been an enormous task to date and we've still got a long way to go. 

Most of the papers have been sorted and filed into broad categories; as have the photos and slides. For several months I have been doing a second sorting and filing at the same time scanning them. Many of them are carbon copies, thermal paper, have lots of handwritten notes or in some other condition that makes reproduction to PDF imperfect. These I have also been transcribing as best I can. (reading Berenice’s hand writing is a challenge at times) 

After sorting the photos according to size and subject I have catalogued about 10%. There is a lot I still need to identify.

We had started scanning them but the scan quality wasn't what we had hoped for. We also had a small slide scanner and actually got through scanning most of the slides (they take up a whole plastic tub on their own) but we were even more disappointed with the results so we have purchased, and just installed, a new super duper scanner and hoping it will give the quality we are hoping for. It is also capable of scanning 120mm film of which there is a handful of negatives mostly from her early life. 

We just set up a spare computer in the garage, with video card installed and hooked up to my old stereo. We are using this to copy the 100 or so videos and audio cassettes to the computer then after some editing they will be copied to DVD.

We will need to find someone who can copy 8mm film to DVD. There is only four but seem to be from the early days of the society or earlier.

I have often said that writing Berenice's biography is a two year project and even after all the time I have put in it is still two years before I can see it published. On top of all the scanning, recording etc, as we go through everything I am noting points relevant to Berenice's biography, reading constantly about Dingoes to update my own knowledge as well as maintaining the website, Facebook page and this blog. 

Obsessed? Maybe just a little but I see it as a labour of love for both Berenice and the Dingo. I hope when the project is complete more people will appreciated her lifetime commitment and hope it will bring about a greater understanding of the Dingo.