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Can Australia save the dingo from extinction?


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Australian dingoWhere did the Australian dingo go? Once present throughout that country, the feared predator (Canis lupus dingo) in its current form is on its way to extinction as it is either killed or breeds and hybridizes with domesticated dogs. With the disappearance of the purebred dingo comes the loss of an important part of the region’s ecosystem as well as a greater chance of environmental destruction by invasive species such as foxes and feral cats.

Now the Australian state of Victoria is taking baby steps toward preserving the dingo. Eighty percent of the dingoes there are hybrids, and pure dingoes exist in only two remote, mountainous areas.

Back in 2008 the Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment declared the dingo a threatened species and has now, finally, taken the first steps toward preventing the dingo’s extinction by planning to set aside public land for dingo preservation. (No land has actually been set aside yet, however.)

Part of the problem is that so many Australians, to put it mildly, hate the dingo. Farmers see the predator as a pest and threat to livestock. There is also a history of dingo attacks on humans, typified by the oft-quoted line spoken by Meryl Streep in A Cry in the Dark, “the dingo ate my baby.”

But dingo attacks on humans are rare, and it might be time to reconsider just how much of a problem dingoes really present to farmers. As Ernest Healy, president of the Victorian Dingo CARE Network, wrote in an article for The Sydney Morning Herald, 3,600 sheep out of a total of 21 million were killed by predators in Victoria in 2005, “a loss rate of less than two in every 10,000 sheep. Do we really want to continue to drive a native animal to extinction for the sake of a relative handful of sheep?”

There is one bit of good news about the dingo: One of the few purebred dingo populations is on isolated Fraser Island, 300 kilometers off the coast of Queensland, where domesticated dogs are not permitted. A new survey released last week counted 231 dingoes on the island, healthier than the previous count of 100 to 120 animals.

Photo: Australian dingo, via Wikipedia





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  1. 1. Chatbell 6:53 pm 07/26/2010

    It would be good news if the figures quoted by the Government were accurate, but sadly this is not the case, their data is incomplete and dates back to 2001.
    There is no mention on the effects of vehicle strikes due to the ever increasing number of tourists, or the detrimental effects on the health and social structure of the animals due to constant hazing, continued shooting, fencing, tagging and general harassment.
    Locals,(who observe the animals on a day to day basis) dingo experts, biologists and non-governmental researchers all concur that this is a species in crises and due to DERM’s (Qld National Parks and Wildlife) mismanagement our precious Fraser Island Dingo is on the verge of extinction..
    The Dingoes on Fraser Isalnd are in crises and on the verge of extinction

    Link to this
  2. 2. loveslawyerjokes 6:55 pm 07/26/2010

    I’m sure they will do as good a job with the dingoes as they did with the native Tasmanian Aboriginals. Wipe them off the face of the planet.

    Link to this
  3. 3. juliuscaesar 10:50 pm 07/26/2010

    what an atrocity they had done to the on-the-verge species!
    yet, we can do nothing about it.

    Link to this
  4. 4. NigeM 2:31 am 07/27/2010

    The numbers are nothing like that quoted by the government. Go to http://www.savefraserislanddingoes.com for a more accurate representation. There is something you can do. Write to members of parliament join the petition at http://www.care2.com, donate to http://www.savefraserislanddingoes.com (SFID) a registered charity or go to http://www.fraserislandfootprints.com/wp/, and buy a painting.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Gillian Ryhorchuk 5:52 am 07/27/2010

    I recently visited Fraser Island, to observe the dingoes. Over a space of ten days I only saw 10 dingoes. Several were quite lame, one bitch which appeared to be lactating was quite thin, and on traelling inland to find evidence of further dingoes, I rarely saw more than a few footprints. I expected to see many more – I was assisted in my searches by a person familiar with the whereabouts of dingoes in the past, and we found empty, and no longer used dens.
    I have 27 adult dingoes of my own, from different areas of Australia, so know something about dingoes, but was extremely disappointed not to find more animals on
    Fraser Island. I’d like to know where all these animals are supposed to be.
    Gill Ryhorchuk, Bushland Dingo Haven

    Link to this
  6. 6. David N'Gog 8:06 am 07/27/2010

    Perhaps we can solve two problems here.

    1) Dingo extinction.
    2) Human overpopulation.

    Just feed excess babies to the dingos.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Chatbell 4:57 pm 07/27/2010

    According to latest DNA evidence Dingoes are believed to have evolved 135,000 years ago, predating the wolf. A genetic marker has been found in Dingoes that is not present in wolves. Whether descended from wolves or not, this species is of importance both nationally and Internationally and needs to be protected at all costs..
    If the dingo is lost it will have nothing to do with evolution and everything to do with the arrogance of man, in allowing this to happen..!!
    P.S. You have a cousin in America, the Carolina Dog..
    Cheryl Bryant. Hervey Bay, Qld. Australia.

    Link to this
  8. 8. greybeard 12:16 am 07/28/2010

    loveslawerjokes,

    FYI,

    There are still many people who identify as Tasmanian aborigines . If you’re American that comment sounds rather hypocritical,as the US managed to annihilate many indigenous ethnic groups.

    Link to this
  9. 9. E-boy 2:20 am 07/28/2010

    Greybeard,

    There are many Americans, including myself, that can claim indian ancestry. FYI

    As for the comment by the other poster about dingoes predating wolves… Um, ALL domestic dogs are descended from wolves. Wolves have been around a heck of a lot longer than 135,000 years. I suggest you do a bit of reading… Dingoes are believed to have arrived in Australia WITH the aboriginal peoples there. They are believed to be ferral domestic dogs who ancestors went ferral tens of thousands of years ago. Plenty of wild living time to develop some distinct genetic markers.

    Having clarified that, it is unique, should be preserved, and I certainly share fears about potentially worse invasive species taking hold if it is allowed to go extinct.

    Link to this
  10. 10. mkrail 5:26 am 07/28/2010

    When are we going to have a proper wildlife study conducted on Fraser Island? If there are only 10 or so wallabies left, no ground parrots, being hazed off the beach during the day so they can’t access fish, and the snakes and goannas are on the wrong side of the dingo fence, what are the dingoes actually eating?

    Link to this
  11. 11. Chatbell 6:59 am 07/28/2010

    E-boy,
    No one is debating the fact that the wolf ancestory began millions of years ago..what is of conjecture is the evolutionary linage, that is where genetic marker’s can either answer or ask questions….Umm, some scientist’s believe that the dog is descended from the wolf, while others think they evolved separately from a common ancestor.,! I’m not sure what you mean by your comment.."They are believed to be ferral domestic dogs who ancestors went ferral tens of thousands of years ago." I believe humans where also "feral" tens of thousands of years ago..?
    Maybe you should do some reading? may I suggest..
    http://www.science.unsw.edu.au/news/dingo-may-be-world-s-oldest-dog/
    I am not here to debate genetics, especially with someone who has no knowledge of our Dingo…I am here to raise International awareness of the plight of the Fraser Island Dingoes, especially in light of the latest propoganda released by the State Government, anyone with a genuine interest in learning more about this unique and endangered animal can find us on Facebook..Save Fraser Island Dingoes.
    Cheryl..Hervey Bay..(Fraser Island)

    Link to this
  12. 12. greybeard 9:22 am 07/28/2010

    E-boy,

    I wasn’t referring to ‘ancestry’,after all we all have a billion ancestors, but to the incorrect assertion(from some presumed moral high ground) by "loveslawyerjokes" that the indigenous Tasmanians have disappeared,they haven’t.

    Bye.

    Link to this
  13. 13. jwdone@hotmail.com 4:07 pm 07/28/2010

    If you want an example of how to drive a species to extinction look at the United States. Siphon water from rivers for irrigation of potatoes and grapes and change the amount and temperature of the water to cause salmon not to lay their eggs up stream and to go extinct. Encroach on the Brown Condor nesting areas and force them into extinction. Kill the buffalo for fun and decimate the species. Kill wolves using airplanes and push the species towards extinction. Pollute rivers to the point that nothing can live in them. Fly on pesticides in areas birds feed in and cause them to not breed. Over fish the continental shelf. Cut all the trees down. Pave over nesting areas. Build more shopping malls with huge asphalt parking lots. Contaminate bays with road runoff and poison the shell life. Flush toxic chemicals and medications down the drain. Throw plastic into the oceans and kill sharks, dolphins, turtles, gulls and seals. Have your Navy make as much noise as possible with their big ships and bombs and cause Killer Whales and other near shore whales so much stress that they become sick and die. All that and more based on a nasty invasive species taking over and breeding in America. If you want to know what NOT to do take a look at the Yanks.

    Link to this
  14. 14. loveslawyerjokes 11:39 pm 07/28/2010

    Greybeard…As an Iroquois, I know that the white eyes tried to exterminate my people just as they made a line and walked across Tasmania, killing every native that they found.
    We respected the wild dog. We copied his tactics to hunt. We respected her family life. We praised their existence. You are the parasite. We lived with our fellow animals, knowing that we all depended on each other. Now you see our wisdom and try to atone for your greed. Feel the guilt, white eye. And kiss my red ass.

    Link to this
  15. 15. loveslawyerjokes 11:48 pm 07/28/2010

    jwdone…That same nasty invasive species took over and bred in Oz, you dumbshit.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Chatbell 12:00 am 07/29/2010

    I am well aware that the evolutionary process of the wolf began millions of years ago, but what is of conjecture is the evolutionary lineage these ancestors may have taken..your comment "They are believed to be ferral domestic dogs who ancestors went ferral tens of thousands of years ago." is confusing, to say the least, I think the human species was also "feral" ten’s of thousands of years ago..!
    Genetic markers can answer questions, or, as in the case of the Dingo, pose them..

    Regarding the domestic dog lineage, while some believe it evolved from the wolf, many scientists maintain it evolved separately from a common ancestor. Umm maybe you should do some reading..!! May I suggest..

    http://www.science.unsw.edu.au/news/dingo-may-be-world-s-oldest-dog/

    I am not here to debate genetics, especially with someone who has absolutely no knowledge of our Dingo, apart from what he has googled.
    I am here to bring International awareness to the plight of the Fraser Island Dingo, especially in light of recent government propaganda releases..we are still waiting for the reports to substantiate their claims that there exists a healthy population on Fraser Island..!!

    Fraser Island is the largest sand Island in the world and is World Heritage listed due to it’s unique flora and fauna, at it’s closest point to the mainland it is only a ten minute barge trip, there in lies the problem, as a major tourist attraction to national and international visitor’s it has made the dingo expendable, the tourism dollar is more important than protecting a species..
    If anyone has a genuine interest in learning more about these iconic and significant animals I suggest you copy/paste the following link to Jennifer Parkhurst"s site, she is a wildlife photographer/painter and Dingo researcher who is presently being prosecuted by Qld. National Parks for revealing just how close to extinction Canis Lupis Dingo has become..

    http://www.fraserislandfootprints.com

    Cheryl..Hervey Bay (Fraser Island) Qld. Australia..

    Link to this
  17. 17. Grasshopper1 8:07 pm 07/29/2010

    We should try to save most creatures that are endangered, but not ones that are so specialized that they probably would go extinct even if humans hadn’t come on to the scene.
    For example, look at the Giant Panda. It basically only eats bamboo. If not for human conservation, it would be extinct by now.
    So why do we protect it?

    Link to this
  18. 18. E-boy 6:13 am 07/30/2010

    What I meant was that very thorough genetic analysis has been done on wolves and dogs and alternative potential ancestors. Thoroughly modern wolves have been around for far longer than dogs. So when I say dogs are derived genetically from wolves I don’t mean they are cousins descended from some common ancestor like say chimps and humans. What I mean is that modern dogs are nearly genetically indistinguishable from wolves. The differences could be viewed as stemming from inbreeding.

    Dingoes may well be the oldest and most genetically isolated feral dogs on the planet, but they are still wolf descendants and arrived in australia with people who brought them along. Some of them went feral, not unlike the Caronina red dog in the united states, of various other examples in areas where direct competition with their wild kin is a non-issue. The Carolina red dog for example only exists because european settlers all but wiped out their native wild competitors and they also settled into a coyote like niche.

    To give you an idea how muddy the waters are about when the dog first came on the scene it gets increasingly difficult to identify the skeletal remains of domestic dogs the further back in time you get. Their muzzles get a bit shorter, their teeth a bit smaller. Never mind that there does seem to be an interim step between wolf anddomestic dog. The village dog. Which is a bit like a stray dog, but hadn’t ever been truly domesticated yet at that point.

    I think it is very interesting that you feel that as a non-australian I wouldn’t have an interest in or knowledge of dingoes or the natural history of dogs.

    In anycase I wasn’t suggesting Dingoes were unworthy of protection. They truly are unique. I was only saying that they’ve only been in australia as long as people have. Because it was people who introduced them. More than likely as companions. The likely path those humans took with their companions dovetails nicely with the genetic analysis that places all extant modern domestic dogs (including ferral ones) as descended from asian wolves. I find it highly unlikely that humans intentionally transported "village dogs" to australia unless they were a food item (which is possible). Having said that I would be VERY surprised if Dingoes didn’t have some unique genetic markers considering they’ve been isolated from the rest of their kind for at least 40,000 years, quite possibly as long as 60,000.

    I don’t think I misunderstood you, and I don’t think I was in any way insulting.

    Link to this
  19. 19. E-boy 6:36 am 07/30/2010

    @Greybeard,

    I see your point and only skimmed the earlier comment, my apologies.

    @loveslawyerjokes,

    Racist much? I don’t claim to be full blooded indian just a bit of Cherokee and Chickasaw mixed in with everything else. I’m aware of history, and with all due respect I’m not really into score keeping. I never did wrong by anyone regardless of their culture or ethnicity. I very much doubt greybeard did either and even if greybeard did neither you or I have any means of proving that. So basically you’re branding a person on the basis of something their ancestors may have done. I suppose you want me to believe that american indians never did anything bad? You’re in denial. There is solid evidence that groups like the Anasazi disintegrated as a cohesive group because of deforestation in a fragile eco-system. HMMMM… Harmony with nature? Really? Never mind the mounting evidence that american indians actively managed ecologies (Quite effectively I might add). The whole noble savage myth is just that. A myth. Yes european settlers wronged our ancestors. Yes they’ve destroyed a lot with intensive hunting and farming and just plain industrial growth. Show me a human group somewhere that hasn’t victimized another culture? Oh wait there aren’t any.

    I suppose you’d be happy if all the europeans went back to europe. what about people who can demonstrate american indian ancestry? That’s a fair chunk of the modern american population. My ancestors didn’t subjegate indians they married them. For all you Know Greybeard is native, you never asked did you?

    @grasshopper, Odds are no matter how hard we try the best we can do is to slow the rate at which we cause extinctions. I hope I’m being unnnecessarily pessimistic. Biodiversity is worth preserving for several reasons. Moral, and aesthetic ones, and more importantly blatant self interest. Animals are interdependent, we are no different. They provide valuable ecological services. Services which, in most cases, we cannot artificially duplicate. Insects, for example, provide about 70Billion dollars in free labor to farmers every year. Without them food production would plummet and cost would go through the roof. Even an animal like a wolf which doesn’t seem much use to humans can reshape and balance an entire ecosystem. Reading about what happened in Yellow Stone National Park before and after the re-introduction of wolves can give you some idea how important one seemingly unconnected species can be.

    Link to this
  20. 20. beanosaurus rex 2:45 pm 07/30/2010

    Since wolves and dingoes hybridize with dogs, aren’t they all members of the same species? Is the plight of the dingo any different from that of the horse going extinct in N America at the end of the Pleistocene? Now we have sanctuaries dedicated to feral horses. Doesn’t seem very "natural" to me. While horses might once have been native components to the community, there is nothing sacred about the genetic line of these feral horses. I wonder about dingo genetic diversity.

    Link to this
  21. 21. loveslawyerjokes 5:32 pm 07/30/2010

    There is a difference between what some here call natural selection and puposeful extinction. If an animal can’t compete because the circumstances have changed, even if due to human activity, then natural selection comes into play. What I refer to is killing for killing’s sake. You must admit that extinction was the purpose behind the slaughter of native Tasmanians, dingoes and native Americans. Different tribes fought each other for centuries, but not for the purpose of extinction. Yes, men had their own interests in mind when they drove the dingo to near-extinction. They didn’t do it just for fun. The number of acres per pair in the bush is huge. Fencing out the predators wasn’t possible. In America, the only reason that the reservation system was dreamed up was because resources were needed for the Civil War. Otherwise, extinction would have been completed. The native Tasmanians were killed because they had no notion of property ownership. They figured that if they saw an apple or a sheep, they could eat it.

    So…E boy…don’t give me your wikipedia bullshit and make out like you are an expert. I just gave the reason why dingoes are nearly extinct…acres per pair of sheep or cattle. The only reason that American coyotes are NOT extinct is because our climate is not nearly as arid. The article gives a misleading fact regarding how many sheep are killed by dingoes. It states that ONLY 3600 were killed by PREDATORS in 2005. But it also states that there are only 2 distinct populations of pure dingoes, deep in the mountains, where there is no livestock. The real fact is that most of the dingoes were killed long ago in a systematic attempt at extinction. The reason that any survived was because of introduced rabbits (which Oz also attempted to exterminate) that provided a food source besides birds and lizzards in the bush. Therefore they could live in more remote places.

    I worked on the Moomba pipeline. I have seen wild dingoes with my own eyes. My information comes from the source.

    Link to this
  22. 22. Chatbell 7:19 pm 07/30/2010

    There is a difference between extinction due to natural selection and evolution and extinction due to interference by man..

    Such is the case with the Panda and our Koala, both specialized feeders, but they are endangered , not due to their dietary requirements, but due to man’s destruction of their habitat and therefore man has a moral obligation to protect them..

    The dingo is also worthy of protection, as a top predator it plays an important role in our ecosystem but in our arrogance and ignorance this unque species is on the verge of extinction.

    "To allow the dingo to disappear due to interference from modern society would be unethical." Dr. Alan Wilton. Uni. of NSW and dingo geneticist.

    As far as hybridization, all the more reason to protect the Fraser Island Dingo, which due to it’s isolation, is one of the purist strains in Australia..

    To Eboy,
    I appreciate and encourage your interest in our dingo, but I’m sure you can appreciate there is a big difference in reading about the animals and holding a puppy and observing the animals behaviour, and unique intelligence in the furry flesh..

    Perhaps I should have been more specific in stating that the Dingo is possibly the oldest dog in the world, but then this is not correct either as the dingo is not actually a dog..

    Since its first official nomenclature in 1792 (Canis antarcticus) the scientific name of the dingo has changed a number of times. The classification "Canis Familiaris " which treats the dingo as a subspecies of domestic dog (and the domestic dog as a species separate from wolves), has been the most frequently used term over the last 50 years, but according to current taxonomy, the accepted name is Canis lupus dingo, which treats the dingo as a subspecies of gray wolf separate from Canis lupus familiaris. but the term Canis dingo classifies the dingo as a separate species from both dogs and wolves..!!
    Cheers, Cheryl..

    Link to this
  23. 23. loveslawyerjokes 7:52 pm 07/30/2010

    Cheryl…Been to Frasier a few decades back. Sailed the Whitsundays and about. Good luck to you. You shine with love for the animals and it shows. I hope enough reflects back.

    Cheers

    Link to this
  24. 24. loveslawyerjokes 8:07 pm 07/30/2010

    Also, Cheryl…Pandas and Koalas have a singular food source and habitat. Therefore they have weak immune systems. Aren’t Koalas dying because of an immune system disease caused by bacteria? Or is it a virus? There are still fewer people on the continent of Australia than in Mexico City. Habitat destruction seems minimal when driving the bush (even if I was on the wrong side of the road!). The Pandas in China with their billions of people are a different story and habitat destruction is clearly the cause of their demise. But they also have weak immune systems.

    Cheers

    Link to this
  25. 25. Chatbell 7:18 pm 08/1/2010

    To, loveslawyerjokes,
    Thanks for your words of encouragement, anyone around Hervey Bay in Sept. (that’s in Aus..) is invited to a Charity Dinner in support of the Fraser Island Dingo with special guest speaker Dr. Alan Wilton…you can also find us on Facebook..just search..(Save Fraser Island Dingoes)

    Regarding the Koala..remember although Australia is a very large continent with a relatively small population the Koala only lives in eucalypt forests, much of which has been decimated by human development, of what remains, most occurs on private land and is therefore not protected..
    You are thinking of Chlamydia, a bacterial infection, this occurs in times of stress, such as what happens when habitat is lost, there are also lot’s of incident’s of kidney disease caused by poisons introduced into their food chain, and don’t forget car strikes, cat and dog attacks..so it all comes back to us interfering in the natural order of things..
    Cheers, Cheryl

    Link to this
  26. 26. ColdHardSlapOfReality 5:00 pm 12/19/2010

    If you want to save it, commercialize it.

    Any chance of beef or dairy cattle going extinct any time soon? Nope.

    I need a dingo. I hate my neighbors and want to keep them as far away from my property as I can possibly get them. A pack of dingoes would do the trick quite nicely.

    Start breeding the animals and put the pups up for sale. If it isn’t legal to do it right now, make it legal and get this thing going. Problem solved, and the program pays for itself.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Steve Challis 6:44 pm 04/12/2012

    This is a very good article, but I would question one point in it.
    The article says that the Dingo is a native animal. This is incorrect; the Dingo was introduced by humans as a domestic dog. It is more accurately referred to as a feral animal.
    http://stevechallis.net/Dingo.php

    Link to this

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