Monday 20 July 2020

Red Tape and Dingo Breeding – Whisty and Snowgoose

Berenice and Snowgoose
It started in 1982.

Snowgoose was a perfect Alpine Dingo, true to type with an excellent temperament. To safeguard against the loss of Snowy's line Berenice sought a mate for her of the same variety. 

Jack Throp, Director of Taronga Park Zoo, suggested Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria had a suitable male.

The first thing she needed was approval from the NSW Minister for Agriculture. This was granted on 8th March 1982.

In 1984 she wrote to Healesville Sanctuary, the Minister of Agriculture, Victoria, and the Minister of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Victoria.

Graeme George of Healesville welcomed the proposal for Snowgoose to travel to Healesville for mating with Alpine dingo Whisty and expressed interested in acquiring one of Snowgoose’s pups.

However, very little runs smoothly when it comes to bureaucracy and Dingoes. The reply from the Victorian Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands of 5th June 1984 stated that the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Board recommended permission not be given because it was against the philosophy of the Board to encourage proliferation of vermin animals.

Never one to have bureaucrats or politicians hinder her endeavours, on 10th July 1984 Berenice replied politely acknowledging the letter but firmly stating: It would appear from your reply that you are totally unaware of the aims and objectives of this Society which has been actively fighting against the proliferation of the Dingo as a Native animal in the domestic environment, since its inception in 1976.

She went on to explain the aims of the society and its stand against exploitation of the dingo.   She pointed out breeding of dingoes by the society was controlled and pups bred for purposes of education and research only, to maintain purity of the breed and its variations also stressing the request was to mate one of the finest examples of alpine bitches in captivity.

It was two months before she finally received a reply. In this letter Mr Mackenzie said since her original letter, Victoria had developed a set of regulations to control keeping dingoes in domestic situations and recognising the place of legitimate breeding programs.

He had reviewed his original decision and agreed to her proposal.

As Dingoes only breed once a year with mating occurring in autumn it would not be until the following year the proposed mating could take place. By 1985, at 10 years old, the beautiful Snowy may have been past breeding.

Snowy needed to spend some weeks at Healesville for the mating. Berenice, her husband Bern, and another society member undertook the then 20 hour return trip to inspect the conditions where she would be kept.

She was thrilled to discover Snowy and Whisty were to be kennelled in the spacious Quarantine Section.  After a tour and meeting with representatives of the sanctuary she had no qualms in agreeing to Snowy's proposed stay.

Local bushfires caused even more delays. Finally, in March 1985, accompanied by a society member, Berenice again made the long trip to personally deliver Snowy and help her to settle in.

They arrived later than expected and Berenice was concerned they may have to wait until morning. She need not have worried. The devoted staff of Healesville, who would be handling and caring for Snowy, had stayed back to meet her, assist with her settling in and introduce her to Whisty. Berenice was very thankful and most impressed.

Snowy and Whisty were immediately attracted to each other.

Berenice kept in contact with Healesville on a weekly basis, but it was not until 8th April that the news Whisty and Snowgoose had mated came through.

All being well, Snowy was due to whelp between 10th and 17th August.

On Tuesday 13th August society vet, Jim Della-Vedova, examined Snowy and noted what could have been one pup, still carried very high.

Saturday morning came and still no sign of a birth until about 12.30 pm when she finally went into labour. It was a difficult birth, but Berenice helped, and Snowgoose finally gave birth to one female pup.

In just nine days ‘puppy’ and her Mum were doing very well and had taken over the kitchen.

"Snobird" returned to Healesville Sanctuary, on loan, with the aim of forming the basis of a project to conserve this magnificent and fast diminishing variety of Dingo in captivity before it became extinct.

It took over three years for Berenice’s suggested mating for Snowgoose and both Merigal and Healesville used this line from Snobird with their own existing bloodlines so both institutions would benefit.

The Australian Native Dog Conservation Society went on to be highly respected as a source of Dingo pups for zoos and sanctuaries and developed several breeding partnerships.

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Tuesday 14 July 2020

Livestock Guardian Dogs at Work

From left: Prof Ray Coppinger, Berenice, Christine, Prof Erich Klinghammer and Prof Gerry Fowler
During her Wolfathon in 1987, with her daughter Christine, Berenice met and travelled with Ray Coppinger. Ray and his wife, Lorna, had become well-known in the USA for introducing livestock guardian dogs.

During their four days stay they were excited to be invited to accompany Ray to farms when collecting pups or advising on problems arising with the dogs. One deer farm where a puppy was delivered had stock killed regularly for months, and despite calling in all the experts in predator control, the killing went on.

When the owner explained his problem to Ray, he said 'no problem', and loaned the farmer one of his females. The killing immediately stopped. It was Ray's opinion the killing was being done by a Coyote female with pups.

At first, they had heard a lot of barking at night, but there were no losses. So impressed were the owners they invested in a pup reared under the watchful eye of Ray and continued to keep the deer herd free from attacks by predators. Just another satisfied customer in the ever growing tide of supporters of the belief stock losses can be cut by methods of protecting stock through exclusion of predators as opposed to extermination of predators whose rights to survival had been totally ignored.