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.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Update on Lola’s Quest to Become a Search and Rescue Dingo

Lola and her dedicated trainer Deanna recently tested for certification in Search and Rescue but unfortunately although they passed the vehicles and buildings components they were not successful in the wilderness section.

Deanna reported that Lola did however win a few admirers while knocking it out of the park and shocking people with how deliberately and methodically she details an area searching for "Hope". 

She said “Most thought she'd be bouncing off walls being a "for real dingo" instructor even said if she's an example of her "breed" that it's an "excellent" example and working dog. High praise for a "newbie". This handler couldn't be prouder, even though I made a couple of bad decisions on one day (the one and only day all week...but the one that mattered).”

Regardless of the result they have come a long way and we wish them all the best for next time.

Monday 11 April 2016

I cried as I read a letter from the past

Today I read a letter to Berenice Walters from John Hogan. I never met John, but he loved Berenice’s dingoes especially Napoleon. Eventually John became the first person to have hearing assistance dingo.

The reason I cried will become apparent in a moment but first I need to explain to those who may not know how desperate the situation is on Fraser Island for the resident dingoes.

I’ll try and be brief and put it in dot point:

  • Fraser Island is a world Heritage Listed Island and the largest sand island in the world.
  • The dingoes inhabiting Fraser Island, and have done so before white man took a step on it, were once believed to be the purest strain of dingo.  
  • The Queensland Government has put the tourist dollar as a higher priority to conservation of both the island and the dingoes.
  • The treatment of the dingoes, under the authority of the Queensland Wildlife and Parks Services has been nothing short of appalling, cruel and lacking in understanding of the Dingo's character, habits and needs.

For more information about the situation on Fraser Is this website is a good place to start

The reason for the title of this blog is this extract from John’s letter dated 12th January 1989:

I have been away with my family. The most interesting place of all was FRASER ISLAND where the dingoes are roaming freely and have no access to the mainland.

They usually came close if we were sitting or laying on the ground. They would move away if we were standing or walking - they were self defencing their treasured bodies and beautiful cute faces. The firearms, traps and farming animals are forbidden on the island. I see the dingoes smiling at the warning notices to preserve their privacy.

It was great to see their freedom and pride in the world's largest sand island. They have walked and slept peacefully without attacking anybody for at least 60 years, as the rangers told us, when the loggers first saw them in 1932. Rangers also claimed that the dingoes are their natural friends and are respected.

What has happened in just under 30 years?

Where are the rangers who considered the dingoes their friends? If a dingo is accused of attacking a human, regardless of the fact the human behaved in a stupid and ignorant manner, it is destroyed by the rangers. It is the rangers that attach heavy, cumbersome ear tags; tags weighing ears down or worse tear them.

Where are the laws putting dingoes first?

I have always wanted to visit Fraser Island and always imagined it to be the way John described it but I don't think I ever will until the situation is reversed. I know it would break my heart to see them in the condition they are now - underfed and becoming inbred due to the reduction in their numbers.

When I went searching for information on the internet I was astonished and disgusted at the big fancy resort ready to grab the tourist dollars at any cost to the island and the dingoes.

Really, if people want to holiday in places like that there are plenty of other Queensland islands already ruined by the tourism industry.

I appeal to any reader from overseas to please spread the word, not just about the Fraser Island dingoes, but all dingoes in Australia. People world-wide support campaigns on behalf of dolphins, whales, pandas, wolves, foxes and many more but the world does not seem to know about the plight of our beautiful dingoes maligned and mercilessly hunted since 1788.

Saturday 9 April 2016

Why I am Glad the Dingo is not a Dog

When Berenice Walters started the Australian Native Dog Training Society in 1976 one of the aims was to have the Dingo acknowledged as Australia’s Native Dog in the hope that as a native animal it would be free from the cruel extermination programs.

The Society also advocated a permit system for dingo ownership to protect dingoes from people profiting from their breeding. The system was finally introduced in NSW but sadly is now not a requirement for Dingo ownership (This is only the case in NSW).

She also wrote the first breed description which later formed the basis of a breed standard adopted by the Australian National Kennel Council.

It should be emphasised that this was not because the society wanted to see the dingo in the show ring alongside domestic breeds of dog.
In 1979 she wrote: A Breed Standard is a description of the appearance and characteristics of a breed. In the case of the Dingo, we have an excellent opportunity to preserve a true record of a pure breed of dog as yet unspoiled by man. It is an unfortunate reality that the appearance and temperament of many breeds have been changed almost beyond recognition within a few generations to comply with a fashionable trend.

When you look at early photos of domestic breeds below and compare them to today’s dogs I am thankful the dingo is not a dog and therefore cannot be changed by man for his own purposes. The Dingo has evolved perfectly to live in its environment; it doesn’t need changing.

Here are some examples: