BRINGING BACK THE DINGO BOOSTS ECOSYSTEM BIODIVERSITY
From our landscape, to our indigenous animal and plant species, to our choice of salty spreads, Australia is a country known for its uniqueness.
Introduced species alter the Australian ecosystem.
It is this natural uniqueness that has been systematically destroyed since first settlement. The introduction of plants and animals has drastically changed the Australian landscape and consequently the history of many of our most treasured species. Australia now has the highest rate of animal extinctions in the world. A third of the global mammalian extinctions in the last 400 years have occurred on our own soil. This has been largely attributed to the introduction of foreign species.
The country is completely covered in introduced species such as rabbits, foxes, feral cats, camels, goats, donkeys and wild dogs just to name a few. It is now more common to see a rabbit in the countryside than it is to see a bandicoot; the native that fills the same ecological niche but has been outcompeted by the rabbit. Conversely, some natives are doing very well from human settlement. Land clearing and dingo culls have favoured the kangaroo’s grazing style of feeding, enabling their numbers to explode. The problem seems almost irreparable.
Missing: an apex predator.
A study conducted at James Cook University has found a simple, home-grown solution to controlling pest species; the dingo.
In addition to land clearing, the problematic boom in meso-predators (smaller predators) and herbivores (native and introduced), has also been attributed to the noticeable absence of the dingo; a native apex predator. Comparable to the lions in Africa and the sharks in the ocean, dingoes are at the top of the Australian food chain. Like many other apex predators, humans have killed dingoes in large numbers. This killing has been rationalised as a way to protect livestock, humans, to keep dingo numbers ‘under control’. Dingoes have even by branded as ‘wild dogs’, implying that they are not part of the native landscape and therefore should be destroyed.
Dingoes restore order to the ecosytstem.
The study conducted in Queensland and New South Whales found that dingoes are actually a keystone species; an integral component of the ecosystem.
Now recognised its own species (Canis dingo), the study demonstrated that the dingo’s presence in the Australian landscape helps to sustain ecosystem biodiversity. It does this by regulating the number of meso-predators and herbivores. This prevents native animals such as kangaroos, wallabies and emus from becoming pests and reduces the number of introduced species such as goats, camels and rabbits.
Biodiversity has already been restored in areas where apex predators have been reintroduced. Primary research in Australia has found that kangaroo and wallaby numbers are lower (and not considered problematic) in areas where the dingo is present.
This is one program that can fairly easily boost biodiversity; strengthening the populations of many wonderful native species. All that is required is the cessation of dingo shooting. In conjunction with population and habitat rehabilitation programs, our native personalities may just have a fighting chance of surviving.