Category Archives: Dingo Issues

LONELY AT THE TOP: Meddling in Ecosystems

By Natalie Kyriacou
About the author:
Natalie Kyriacou is the Director of My Green World, an organisation dedicated to the conservation and protection of wildlife and habitats. She has worked on various animal welfare and conservation projects, including an orangutan rehabilitation program in Borneo, an elephant rescue program in Sri Lanka, and a dog sterilisation clinic in Sri Lanka and Australia.
Natalie holds a degree in Journalism and a Masters in International Relations at the University of Melbourne. She is a current appointed member of the Animal Ethics Committee for the Department of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Melbourne.


With somewhat murky ancestral origins and a much maligned reputation in Australia, the dingo has long been considered a polarizing predator; both a cultural icon and livestock pest.

Perhaps no other predator is more deeply embedded in the Australian psyche than the dingo. Its history in Australia has grabbed headlines for more than a century, from the stolen baby in the infamous Azaria Chamberlain case to being the cause for the construction of the legendary Dingo Fence in 1885 to protect grazing lands, the dingo has entrenched itself deeply into the rich fabric of Australian culture.

Bearing a striking resemblance to the domestic dog, the dingo is currently listed as a subspecies of the grey wolf, though its exact ancestry is highly enigmatic and much debated. More recent research suggests that the dingo came to Australia via Southern China, anywhere between 4600 and 18,300 years ago.

Despite its flawed reputation, Australia’s largest terrestrial predator is also a vital component of healthy ecosystems in Australia and an important contributor to environmental recovery and the protection of threatened native species.

Considered one of the most vexing issues facing conservationists and agriculturalists alike, the dingo has haunted the Australian landscape for over 200 years.

The culling of dingoes is commonplace in Australia, and their numbers have fluctuated widely as a result. Government-run programs consenting the dingo cull are active across the country, with methods including poisoning, shooting and using sodium fluoroacetate.

The deadly drama of predators and their prey is often described as a prime example of natural selection in action, however, often overlooked is the role that humans play in these relationships, and how their meddlesome actions within precious ecosystems can have devastating consequences.

Most recently, the dingo has experienced catastrophic decline as a result of human persecution. Such a collapse of top predator populations is associated with dramatic upsurges of smaller predators. Known as the mesopredator theory, this trophic interaction has been witnessed heavily in Australia. Disruption to the number of dingoes has a cascading effect throughout entire ecosystems, initiating a surge of unchecked predation by lower species and an unravelling of bionetworks.

When dingo populations dwindle, foxes, feral cats, and kangaroos grow bolder. Foxes and cats eat large quantities of small mammals, while kangaroos destroy vegetation which smaller marsupials live in, leading to an equally controversial kangaroo cull.

Thus, the crucial role of the apex predator is undermined frequently. The story of the dingo is not unique. The apex predator has been continually persecuted throughout the world, and the results are almost always the same.

The impact that unregulated mesopredators have on ecosystems is something which has only recently been recognised. In 2006, scientists from James Cook University and Australian National University published a report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, tracking the geographical relationship between dingoes, threatened species, and now-extinct species.
Their research suggests that dingoes actually aid the survival of smaller, more vulnerable species in Australia, and their presence is actually associated with the persistence of native Australian animals. By suppressing populations of introduced predators and larger herbivores, the dingo actually reduced the threat to native species. The study found that in areas where dingoes had been removed, most of the native mammal extinctions had occurred.

This complex ecological dynamic has been largely overlooked in Australia, and the war on dingoes has continued to rage, compromising their genetic strain, causing many dingo subspecies to fall extinct, and dooming much of Australia’s biodiversity.

If the dingo was entirely eliminated from Australia, then prey species would doubtlessly suffer. The dingo is not only a keystone species protecting mammal biodiversity in Australia, but it is the most significant constraint on the harmful potential of exotic predators. The notion that we must so thoroughly regulate and intervene in the wild is highly alarming, and the devastating impact it has on natural ecosystems is already being felt around the world.

Natalie Kyriacou

Featured image: “Dingo Perth Zoo SMC Sept 2005”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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NDPRP opinion piece – What The Courier Mail refused to publish

By Ernest Healy

“Drought, Dingoes and Environmental Reality – Time for a Rethink”

Severe drought has again highlighted the hardship of Queensland pastoralists, particularly those in arid areas. Familiar topics have again come to the fore: the doubtful wisdom of farming marginal lands, kangaroos taking scarce pasture, ‘wild dog’ predation on stock and rampaging pigs breaking down the dingo fence. Everything, it seems conspires against the struggling farmer.

The imagery used seems understandable – ‘killing machines’ taking the life out of the west, wave upon wave with almost military precision, billions lost to the economy and sheep farmers driven out of the industry. Political demands abound for governments to do more to combat the ‘wild-dog’ scourge. Instinctively, politicians make the right noises.

(image: Jennifer Parkhurst)

While the silhouette of drought and rural desperation is etched into the Australian consciousness, the time has, nevertheless, come for a reassessment of this man-against-nature view of drought and our collective responses to it. Attitudes towards the dingo are a good starting point for reflection.

Why is such a reassessment necessary? Because, there is a now a deepening and unresolved contradiction between a growing body of independent environmental research, which highlights the importance of healthy dingo populations for environmental balance and biodiversity conservation and long-established anti-dingo or ‘wild-dog’ sentiment , which deems the dingo a pest animal to be eradicated or, at least, perpetually controlled through lethal means across the landscape.

The legal status of the dingo across much of Australia still largely reflects this historically entrenched pest-animal perspective. However legislators respond in future, the days are over when dingo destruction can be confidently promoted as consistent with good environmental stewardship. Farmers and their peak representative organisations need to undergo this realisation.

The contest between environmental research, which by and large finds that dingoes should be protected in the service of good environmental management, and established ant-dingo attitudes, remains complex. This is because dingoes can hybridise with their domestic counterpart, the domestic dog (Even a European wolf can breed with a poodle). As when putting a drop of coloured dye in a bucket of water, all of the water, eventually, will be coloured to some minor degree, domestic dog genes will ultimately spread throughout the wild dingo population.

Pastoral industry advocates, fearful of the idea that dingoes should be managed as something more than pest animals, let alone protected as an environmental asset, have latched hold of hybridisation to argue that what currently exists in the wild are not dingoes, but hybrids, which ought not be considered indigenous or wildlife, and are therefore ineligible for protection. The term ‘wild dog’ thereby becomes more than a description, but a politically loaded term designed to legitimise the continued destruction of what is still, essentially, a native animal.

Disingenuously, it is at times further argued that, in controlling hybrids through ‘wild-dog’ control (poisoning and trapping on a landscape scale), protection is afforded remnant populations of ‘pure’ dingoes.

What then should we draw from the science which argues for a more benevolent attitude towards dingoes, particularly given the grievances of battling farmers struck by drought? A key consideration is the ecological function of wild dingo populations, even if they have undergone some degree of hybridisation.

If the role played by hybridised wild populations is essentially the same as the pre European dingo, or is shown to provide a net environmental benefit for the preservation of other native species, then considerations of genetic purity become an unnecessary distraction.

This line of thinking is lent support by the fact that much of the in-the-field research into the role of the dingo in maintaining ecological balance, as a top order predator, has been conducted with populations that were probably hybridised to some degree.

Evidence suggests that hybridised dingo populations are nothing like a first generation dingo-dog cross. Much of the hybridisation is many generations old. And, importantly, selection pressure is strong.

Prominent dingo researcher, Dr Laurie Corbett, once commented that, “although he believed dingoes in north eastern Victoria had undergone some hybridisation, this was not apparent. He speculated that this was because strong selection pressure in this region was effectively pushing the hybrids back into an ancestral conformation.
Farming now needs to be environmentally responsible in ways not imagined even one generation ago.”

Contact Secretary Ernest Healy:
President Ian Gunn:
Vice President: Jennifer Parkhurst:

‘Great spirits have always
encountered violent opposition from
mediocre mind’
Albert Einstein

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Queensland Environment Minister Must Initiate Independent Enquiry into Dingo Mismanagement and Cruelty on Fraser Island April 1, 2016

National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program (Inc. A0051763G ) Thursday, April 1, 2016

President of the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program Inc. research veterinarian and animal ethics expert, Dr Ian Gunn, called on the Qld Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles, to initiate an independent inquiry into cruelty & mismanagement of the dingoes on Fraser Island. Dr Gunn said the recent inappropriate collaring of a juvenile dingo, which had caused the animal distress was the latest in a sequence of events which raise serious questions about animal welfare aspects of current dingo management on Fraser Island.


This incident involved the use of a heavy radio tracking collar on a juvenile dingo for purposes that appear unrelated to any current research program and therefore for a purpose unrelated to bulky and heavy design of the collar. Photographs taken by a tourist clearly show that the sharp edges of the heavy collar had worn away the fur on the dingo’s neck and would have unnecessarily interfered with the young dingo’s mobility and well-being. That the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service removed the collar after public criticism and the animal was found dead the following day raises more questions than it answers, Dr Gunn said.

Juvenile dingo with bulky/heavy collar 2016- These events follow an incident, in 2015, when another juvenile dingo was ‘humanely’ euthanised after allegedly becoming aggressive.

Necropsy photographs obtained through Queensland Right to Information legislation point to severe physical trauma prior to death. Dr Gunn, who conferred with senior veterinary colleagues over photographic evidence, concluded the dingo had suffered massive internal bleeding in the abdominal cavity consistent with a heavy blow or impact prior to being put down through lethal injection to the heart. There is no discussion of this evidence in the inadequate official necropsy report. Dr Gunn said: “ We have evidence of unacknowledged animal trauma and unanswered animal welfare questions.”


Necropsy report , October 2015 Internal bleeding within abdominal cavity – severe pre-death trauma

Possibly the most serious dingo cruelty incident at the hands of Queensland wildlife authorities occurred on Fraser Island in May 2011, as part of dingo trapping for radio collaring research. The necropsy report for this juvenile male dingo reads like a horror story. Upon examination of the report at the time, Dr Ian Gunn stated:

In all my years as a veterinary surgeon, I have never witnessed anything like this. This animal died in agony while trapped and restrained as part of ‘research’ being conducted by Queensland government authorities charged with its protection. The necropsy report stated that the otherwise healthy dingo had been restrained for ‘some period of time’. It had been pinned down by a pole noose and pinning device. It had chipped and fractured teeth, had extensive internal bleeding, including widespread bruising and haemorrhaging to the thorax, limbs, neck and lumbar spine region, bleeding from the eye, tearing of the muscles between the ribs and the chest wall, and congested and collapsed lungs. In its final moments of life, the dingo vomited its stomach contents into its airways.



Necropsy report 2011

The National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program subsequently sent a solicitors’ letter to the relevant Queensland government departments and Ministers alleging serious breaches of the law and inadequate animal ethics practices relating to this incident. No acknowledgement was received, let alone action taken. Not one person was held to account.

“It is time for the buck to stop and it has to stop with the Queensland Minister”, Dr Gunn said today. “The Queensland government’s claim that the Fraser Island dingo population is being managed ‘humanely’ is now in serious doubt. The only way to get to the bottom of this mess and, it seems cover up, is to conduct a genuinely independent animal welfare inquiry into dingo management on Fraser Island. The Queensland wildlife authorities seem incapable of this themselves.”

Contact: Dr Ian Gunn BVSc. FACVSc.0427 387778 (mob.)

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The Butchulla First Nations People of Fraser Island (K’Gari) and their dingoes, by Jennifer Parkhurst

Published by the Australian Wildlife Protection Council


‘We’ve all heard stories about the Dreamtime and anecdotal evidence told by the First Nations Peoples of Fraser Island and surrounds, that there was a deep relational bond pre-white settlement between people and their dingoes.

In this Booklet, Jennifer Parkhurst explores historical records, and interviews Butchulla Aboriginal Elders to reveal that the Aboriginal people did indeed have very close ties to their dingoes, considering them family members. The Australian Wildlife Protection Council Inc. applauds Jennifer Parkhurst for her knowledge about Dingoes and their pups after living with and photographing them on Fraser Island for 7 years. Her research and experience is as good as any scientist.


Therefore we were shocked and appalled to learn that The Queensland  Government Department of Environment Resource Management  prosecuted Jennifer for feeding starving dingoes on FI and she was fined $40,000. This is a disgrace and the fine must be rescinded!

Therefore we gave Jennifer our Conservation Award in 2012.

‘It is imperative, we believe, that the dingoes be allowed to co-exist with people on Fraser Island in their semi-domesticate state, and that the past – and present – relationship between people and dingoes be formally recognised.

‘We must not allow normal dingo behaviour to be so misinterpreted that the dingoes are killed. Dingoes are one with Fraser Island and the Aboriginal people; they must be protected.  Maryland Wilson, President, Australian Wildlife Protection Council.

‘Jennifer Parkhurst was given the name ‘Naibar
Wongari Yeeran’ (meaning ‘our sister dingo woman’)
by the Butchulla people of Fraser Island, in honour
of her close relationship to the dingoes and her
efforts to save these precious, totemic animals.’

To purchase a copy of this wonderful new book for $27,
and help Jennifer spread the word about how important
our dingoes are, please Contact us at

Alternatively, make an order and pay through pay pal. Pay pal address is .

People can deposit the funds in the pay pal account and leave a message with their address, and how many books they want etc.

Cheques can be sent to Jennifer Parkhurst, c/o Post Office Rainbow Beach Qld 4581.

All proceeds of sales go towards publishing more copies of this book and spreading the word about
dingo conservation!

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The Dingo Bounty – Victorian Labor’s Environmental Policy Amnesia – Political Opportunism Trumps Principle

The Andrews Labor Government has, in our considered opinion, just failed an important test of its integrity in relation to threatened species listings and biodiversity governance. Immediately prior to losing office in December 2010, the Brumby Labor government had finalized listing the dingo as a threatened native taxon under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

The current Labor government’s has, it seems, virtually trashed that listing, through the reinstatement of a ‘wild-dog’ bounty, which – it appears – directly panders to Victorian Upper House hunters and fishers members who were voted in on a relative handful of first preference votes. This now castes a shadow over the Victorian Government’s commitment to biodiversity conservation.

The broader significance of the dingo listing relates to the dingo’s pivotal ecological role as apex predator. Ecologists around the world are increasingly pointing to the importance of top predators for ecosystem stability at a time of environmental dislocation.

The bounty is, it would appear, a publicly subsidized membership recruitment drive for recreational hunting organizations because membership of such organizations is a precondition for permission to kill ‘wild-dogs’/dingoes and receipt of the bounty payment.

The Humane Society International has highlighted that there is no sound pest animal control justification for the bounty and that it will be environmentally harmful. The bounty of $120 per scalp will make no significant contribution to protecting farm stock from wild-dog predation.


Julianne Bell Secretary Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. Mobile 0408022408


Petition Victoria’s Labor Party:

Victorian Labor Party Incites Dingo Genocide

And if a dingo isn’t considered 100% “pure”, containing genes from domestic dogs, should hybrids be managed differently to dingoes?

Research suggests “pure” dingoes do exist in Victoria, albeit in smaller numbers than other regions.  Two other recent studies are important in the Victorian context. One suggests dingo characteristics prevail even within hybrids and another has found there are two distinct dingo populations. Importantly, the south east dingo population is at increased risk of extinction.

(The Conversation: Why Victoria’s dingo and ‘wild dog’ bounty is doomed to miss its target By Euan Ritchie (Deakin University) and Arian Wallach (University of Technology Sydney)

There are a range of reasons cited for why bounties fail. These include:

  • an inability to sufficiently reduce numbers of the the target species and hence their impact, due to rapid breeding and/or immigration from other areas
  • corruption by those claiming bounties, whereby animals claimed for bounty payments have not actually been killed in the area where the bounty is intended to benefit
  • an inability to access some animals over large and/or remote areas
  • a disincentive to completely eradicate animals as this removes the source of income
  • disruption of predator social structures causing higher livestock predation.

Predator-friendly farming is growing across Australia, as you can see in the image above. Large livestock on large landholdings, such as beef cattle on thousands of square kilometre stations, are reducing conflict by enabling dingo packs to stabilize and by supporting healthier cows that are better able to defend their calves.


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