What is the problem on Fraser Island?
The problems all began on FI due to the Heritage listing in 1992 which brought about two responses; the implementation of the dingo management strategy; and the increase in tourism.
The FRASER ISLAND DINGO MANAGEMENT STRATEGY (FIDMS) as it is known was implemented in 1999 after a progressive forced reduction in dingo-human interaction . The FIDMS HAS NEVER BEEN INDEPENDENTLY peer-reviewed and the background papers have never been published in academic journals which IS A PRE-REQUISITE for any serious scientifically based management program.
The Management practices include: hazing and collaring; tagging; and CULLING which can cause pack destruction; in SFID’s opinion the strategy also causes misunderstanding and misrepresentation of dingo behaviour and lacks appropriate education for tourists.
What’s Wrong With Ear Tagging?
The tags are round the size of a 50 cent piece, and have a shaft that is approx 5mm thick. If not placed correctly this can make the ear droop. Dingoes’ ears work independently to each other. If one ear is damaged, dingoes can’t hunt properly. Ear tags often become infected. Ear tags can delaminate; which means the colour comes off, within three months of application and are useless.
The pups are trapped, drugged, tagged, DNA samples are taken, and then they are let go without being sanitized. Sometimes, dingo parents abandon the pups because they don’t like human scent on the pups. Other times, very sadly, the parents kill the pups.
What is Hazing?
This is a type of aversive conditioning, where the dingo is shot by a projectile, often a marble from a slingshot, or else rat shot.
Hazing is painful to the animal, and has been condemned by the RSPCA. It has been shown to be ineffective. On many occasions dingoes merely run from the rangers, only to return once the rangers leave the area. Unfortunately, hazing can have a detrimental effect on the animal and change its behavior and make it become aggressive.
Hazing is undertaken with no respect for dingo requirements such as patrolling territorial boundaries. Dingoes have to patrol their boundaries every day and the beach is part of that boundary. They need to scent mark their territory; make sure no other dingoes are using it; and look for food.
What is wrong with aversive conditioning collars?
Aversive conditioning collars are put on ‘problem’ animals and they are given an electric shock every time they do something that is perceived to be wrong. The use of electric collars has been condemned by the RSPCA in other states and researchers such as Deakin Uni behavioural scientist Dr Nick Branson tell us that dogs are not able to associate punishment with a certain behaviour.
What about tracking collars?
It is widely considered by experts that no surveillance method should be used which is likely to interfere with the animals’ ability to function naturally but we believe these tracking collars will disrupt normal dingo behaviour and cause instability amongst the packs. Some animals may be ostracized or even killed by other members of the group, the collars will also interfere with normal foraging habits, and with the denning and whelping process.
In this day and age of microsizing where we can fit transmitters to frogs, dingoes should not have to wear collars that were in fact designed for bears and large animals like cougars. Clearly these collars are cumbersome and ugly. Do we want to see wild dingoes on Fraser Island with collars around their necks?
What is wrong with culling?
Method of destruction of dingoes on FI is NOT HUMANE. It is not like taking your dog to a vet and giving it an injection of anesthetic. The dogs are trapped and given an injection of Valabarb directly into the heart. This is an excruciatingly painful death for the animal. Many times the injection misses the heart and has to be repeated.
Indiscriminately killing pups does far more damage than human habituation. DERM opinion is that feeding dingoes may increase a subordinate dingo’s chances of gaining rank within the pack. Thus natural pack structure is altered. However killing up to 4 members of a pack at a time is more harmful. Each year alpha male and female dingoes need one or two ofÂ the previous year’s pups to help them raise the next litter. Without this extra help starvation/mortality of the new pups increase.
Likewise if alpha male or female is destroyed the pups have no one to teach them how to behave. This is akin to leaving children or teenagers alone on the street to fend for themselves. The result can be; either the pups die because they don’t know how to survive and we end up losing a whole pack or else the pups grow up without social skills and cannot relate to other dingoes.
Would feeding dingoes cause an increase in population?
According to DERM, in 1998 when the FIDMS was first introduced the Island dingo population was at a saturation point of 200 animals and being sustained predominantly by human-derived food (Report to Queensland Department of Environment by ERA Environmental Services Pty Ltd Author: Dr Laurie Corbett April 1998. Strangely, despite the cull of 32 animals in 1996 (Dingoes in Queensland, Australia: Skull Dimensions and the Identity of Wild Canids. Peter F. Woodall*, Peter Pavlov and Keith L. TwyfordC 1996) and another 30-40 after the Clinton Gage tragedy, and subsequent destruction of approx 80 ‘problem’ dingoes, and despite natural attrition, DERM tells us that the dingo population is still at 200 animals, and that artificial feeding would increase this number. So far, the question still needs to be answered: how many dingoes are in fact on FI and how many dingoes can the island support. Until we know this answer, we cannot condone slow death by starvation.
Are dingoes generally dangerous to man?
experts report: NO.
Dingoes have never been known to kill Aboriginal children.
There is an average of 3000 attacks per year in each state by domestic dogs. Dingoes are classified least aggressive dog in some states of Australia making them less dangerous than the Maltese terrier. The experts in our group comprise some of Australiaâ€™s leading canid and animal behaviorists some of whom have studied lions, orangutans and bears and have written up to 20 books an published up to a hundred papers. These people all state unequivocally that dingoes are not dangerous to man.
Laurie Corbett DERM’s expert stated in 1974 that ‘There was no case on record of an UNPROVOKED ATTACK on a man by a dingo’ *dingoes don’t bark Lionel Hudson
Are dingoes attacking or playing?
There is a significant relationship between the human stimulus behaviour and the dingo response.
Each time a dingo is sighted in a human-use area a report is made. There are three main codes for reports; C which is usually a sighting (minor incident such as ‘loitering’); D which is an interaction (minor incident such as stealing food); and E (major incident which may involve a bite and means the dingo must be destroyed). If a dingo has too many C or D reports made against it; it then is classed as an E category animal. Many C & D incident reports state that the dingo was ‘non-aggressive’.
A dingo’s most common solicitation of play is the ‘play bow'; the forequarters drop to the ground and the hindquarters stay up in the air, the tail wagging. This is sometimes accompanied by howling or an openmouthed ‘grin’. On other occasions, dingoes solicit play by rushing at a prospective opponent and pushing them over. If people are not educated to stand still and remain calm when approached by an excited dingo their response may be to run because they think that they are being attacked. If something runs a dingo will chase it.
Why are dingoes not protected by legislation or the RSPCA?
As far as legislation goes, the Island is governed by three separate Acts, the Rec Areas Management Act, the Nature Conservation Act, and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (World Heritage). All of these Acts give complete control of all matters (including cruelty) to the FIDMS (Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy), and it is written into the Acts that staff administering the FIDMS cannot be prosecuted for any action whatsoever that is sanctioned by the FIDMS. The legislation is anthropocentric rather than ecocentric.
RSPCA Qld is not obligated to help starving wildlife. It is allowed to investigate Acts of Cruelty, but Acts sanctioned by the FIDMS cannot be considered as cruelty.
Why does SFID undertake so much fundraising?
We are undertaking specific research trips to the Island, and have other experts volunteering their services, but primarily we need funding to supporting urgently needed external and independent scientists and veterinarians. We also need these experts to analyse data including incident reports, tag registers, and necropsy reports.
We need immediate figures on prey availability, analysis done on DNA/scat to determine dingoesâ€™ current diet and also to determine what dietary requirements may be missing. We need to establish sustainability of prey/food sources, as well as sustainability of tourist numbers as they interject with dingo breeding cycles.
Fairly detailed research on visitor attitudes and their understanding of the dingo behavior must be undertaken, in order to develop clear educational material which will inevitably improve human/dingo interaction. Our long-term goal is to establish funding for a full-time vet and a 24 hour emergency veterinary centre on the Island, also to establish an Educational Centre/Cultural Centre on the Island in conjunction with Indigenous advisors.