Killing killer dingoes

Danger, agressive dingo! @ Fraser Island, QLD by M i x y http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladymixy-uk/5368214284/ Licensed under Creative Commons

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go on a day trip to Fraser Island, Queensland. However, I remember being quite taken aback when our tour-guide sadly and angrily pointed out were traps had been laid by rangers to capture the island’s iconic dingo (Canis lupus Dingo) for the purpose of euthanasia.

Surely these vulnerable animals were protected on this World Heritage listed island?

Dingoes are the poster-animal for Fraser Island, enticing tourists to get a glimpse. However, with more tourists, there have been more incidents with dingoes, likely to be due to people thinking a dingo is like a dog and leaving human food out, and not knowing how to behave in the presence of these wild animals.

In 2001, a nine year old boy was killed by a dingo. This led to a government-ordered cull of dingoes.

Burns and Howard (2003) amalgamated the responses from stakeholders regarding this incident (p.3):

It’s all pretty straight forward really. The tourists are stupid. The residents short-sighted. The dogs starving. The rangers, who don’t know how to look after the island, are over-worked and under-funded. And the government doesn’t give a damn … until somebody dies that is, and then they only give a damn about their political future.

A report by Lawrance and Higginbottom (2002) regarding the behavioural responses of dingos to humans on Fraser Island showed that the dingoes were habituated to humans and had predictable responses to human behaviour, which could be utilised for human safety.

Habituation

  • Dingoes in highly used areas by humans, more actively sought human food
  • Dingo behaviour was disturbed by people and vehicles
  • Dingos in higher used areas by humans had different movement patterns compared to dingoes in lower human used environments, with less time spent resting

Dingo behaviour affected by human behaviour

  • A person turning around and moving away from a dingo triggered an aggressive response
  • Moving towards a dingo and making loud noises and quick movements prompted in the dingo retreating or behaving submissively
  • A person staying still and quiet resulted a dingo to lose interest and /or move away

Lawrance and Higginbottom (2002) believe managers need to control the available human food on the island, and that tourists and locals need to be educated in the dangers of feeding dingoes and about the behaviours best displayed in front of the animals. Research into dingo behaviour also needs to be investigated further.

The recent educational flyer, The dingos of Fraser Island: Safety and information guide (2011), by the Queensland government is an illustration of useful fact sheet, and will hopefully help to reduce human-dingo conflict in the future.

Day 104- On the beach on Fraser Island – Australian Dingo by Nina Matthews Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/21560098@N06/6536838899/ Licensed under Creative Commons