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.

Monday 14 March 2016

Lola Dingo and her best friend Morgan Coyote

How did an Australian Dingo come to be in Florida…AND in rescue? It’s simple…people! Six pups were sent from a Dingo Recovery program to the United States. Two ended up with a couple in Florida. The man had come from Australia and wanted some of his homeland it seems. Dingoes are the apex predator in Australia while, like the wolf or coyote are generally treated as a “nuisance” animal they are a separate species.

The pups were allowed to breed which caused problems with law enforcement because the owners did not following captive wildlife laws. Dingoes require Class III FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) permits and special containment in Florida. Well a lot happened in their lives in that next year and the short of it is that another rescuer got a call that six dingoes needed placement. Shy Wolf Sanctuary had originally planned on taking two but had since filled their habitats, mostly with coyotes. So a rescuer from North Carolina came down and picked them up. That’s when she found out one of the girls was pregnant. Six pups were born but only three survived.
The original home that was lined up for this very special girl fell through and Deanna (volunteer & Board of Directors member of Shy Wolf Sanctuary) was called to see if she would personally adopt the pup. While not actively seeking a pup, and quite happy with her existing pack, she saw the benefits to having a different canid species as an ambassador to the sanctuary. It was especially enticing since the pup would be more likely to WANT to go to events, unlike their other animals.
Lola has made herself at home wherever she goes, as the picture shows, and is even showing an aptitude for Search and Rescue (SAR) training. Who knows? Shy Wolf Sanctuary may be the first to have a certified SAR Dingo ready to respond at the drop of a hat! 

In the meantime she loves playing with Morgan and climbing up onto anything she can possibly climb onto…including your head if you sit close enough to her.


Morgan’s rescue was not one that was planned. Shy Wolf Sanctuary already had FOUR coyotes in one small habitat. They got the call and email the day before Easter 2013 that a man had what he thought was a wolf pup. It had been dropped in the road by its mother in the middle of a move. He spotted it and waited to see if she would come back and, when she didn’t, he picked up the tiny pup and took it home to try and save.

At first he was doing okay with the puppy formula but then he realised he had something on his hands that probably needed a license. He could no longer care for the wee guy. Nancy and Deanna agreed to meet him to check out the pup and pick him up on Easter Sunday. His eyes were barely open so we estimate he was three weeks at the time. It’s lucky for Morgan we got him when we did as he was impacted from the formula and anaemic from fleas. Our vet had his work cut out for him the next day and so did we!

When it came time to name him, we decided to name him after a very special girl, Morgan Lillard, who had suffered an unimaginable loss of her younger sisters in a fire. We were told the one thing that would get her to smile was learning about wolves. We can’t wait for the first Morgan to come and visit her namesake some day!

Since Lola was only a month younger than Morgan, we decided to see if they could be friends. At first Morgan was a bit of a bully but Lola soon caught up and caught on…she’d simply sit on Morgan until he would go running for the safety of the nearest volunteer! Now they are fast friends and he gets really excited when she comes to spend the day playing. 

Produced with permission of Lola’s trainer, Deanna Deppen and the Shy Wolf Sanctuary, Florida, USA

Tuesday 8 March 2016

The Dingo and the Macquarie Dictionary

In 1987 a lady wrote to the publishers of the Macquarie Dictionary suggesting the definitions of "dingo" which relate the word to a cowardly or contemptible person be deleted. The writer explained that these definitions had been deleted from The Handy Macquarie Dictionary because it contains a number of entries and the information in them had to be restricted due to lack of space, not as an editorial decision.

The representative of the Editorial Committee pointed out the purpose of the dictionary is to offer an account of Australian English; quoting Professor Delbridge “Words have been included on the evidence of their being current, or of having been current in Australia at any time." She added:

“There are many words in the dictionary to which people could and do object, but they are words which are used and will be used regardless of whether or not we include them.

“In the case of "dingo", deleting this sense of the word from the dictionary is not going to stop people using it this way. On the other hand, by including it, we feel we are not condoning its use, but rather simply recording it as part of our language. Even to add a label of "formerly" to it, would be a "false representation" of the word because its use is quite widespread and recent.

“Unfortunately as dictionary writers, we can only describe or reflect the language as it is used, not prescribe how it should be used.”
I would have liked to be able to check what the actual definition was at the time but had to settle for the definition of dingo according to the online Macquarie Dictionary:

noun (plural dingoes or dingos)
1.  a wild dog, Canis lupus dingo, usually tawny-yellow in colour, with erect ears, a bushy tail and distinctive gait, and with a call resembling a howl or yelp rather than a bark, found throughout mainland Australia, New Guinea and South-East Asia; brought to Australia about 4000 years ago probably by Indonesian seafarers; pure populations endangered by hybridisation with feral domestic dog; native dog.

a.  a contemptible person; coward.
b.  someone who shirks responsibility or evades difficult situations.

verb (dingoed, dingoing)
verb (i) 3.  to act in a cowardly manner.
verb (t) 4.  to shirk, evade, or avoid; to spoil or ruin.
phrase 5.  dingo on someone, to betray someone. [Phrase Origin: from the view held of the dingo by early pastoralists in Australia who despised it as a predator of sheep and other domestic animals and regarded it as both treacherous and cowardly]

So the derogatory terms are still there. What do you think?

Blogger’s Note: Incidentally I have sent them a note about changing the species name from Canis Lupis Dingo to Canis Dingo – I will post the reply in the comments.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Dingoes v Alan Wilkie by Berenice Walters 1977

With the onset of the rain the Dingoes have been in fine voice. The weather forecast was for a dry day, no change in sight, reaching 27 temp.
We knew differently. Three times during the morning the Dingoes had conglomerated in happy groups to howl; voices relaxed, sociable, tails high and wagging. (Sometimes I join them and am greeted with expressions of pleasure, their ears back, heads high, smiling their welcome.) On this particular day it was raining by mid afternoon.
How I love these happy groups of friends. Their acceptance of me fills me with the greatest happiness and humility. I feel a complete person.
At the approach of the breeding season the howling takes on a new dimension. It is excited and challenging, the males no doubt sure in their quest of a mate, the females confident in the knowledge of their forthcoming attraction.
Nothing could be more sad and soulful nor weirdly spine chilling than the howl of the lonely Dingo, the Dingo deprived of his own kind without the close companionship of his owner. The Dingo needs a close and understanding relationship with his loved ones. He must be a member of the family; not a pet.