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Australia should enlist dingoes to control invasive species

Introduced species pose one of the greatest threats to Australia’s fauna and flora, but expensive efforts to control them aren’t working. Instead of spending millions of dollars on culling, giving dingoes…

Dingoes offer a way to conserve Australia’s wildlife, for free. Arian Wallach

Introduced species pose one of the greatest threats to Australia’s fauna and flora, but expensive efforts to control them aren’t working. Instead of spending millions of dollars on culling, giving dingoes a hand could help Australia’s wildlife. Evidence shows dingoes control invasive species free of charge.

Recently, some of Australia’s conservation biologists have called on the government to invest the nation’s limited conservation funds on a more limited number of threatened species (conservation triage).

Even the best-funded National Parks are failing to preserve threatened species, and declines and extinctions are occurring both in and out of protected areas. Despite the resources expended we have made little headway in the conservation of endangered species. More money won’t necessarily help.

Cost of culling

In Australia, introduced predators and herbivores are a leading driver of biodiversity loss. Killing introduced species therefore makes up a substantial portion of the conservation budget, with an estimated spending of at least A$10-20 million annually to control the six Most Wanted offenders (foxes, dingoes, cats, rabbits, pigs and goats).

According to 2006 data Parks Victoria spends approximately A$5 million annually, or 4% of their annual budget, controlling introduced mammals, and invests an extra A$2 million annually on research into improving pest control methods.

Last year the Commonwealth Cooperative Research Centre Program spent A$3.9 million on the Invasive Animals CRC “to counteract the impact of invasive animals” on agriculture and biodiversity.

Many ways to kill

In the name of conservation animals are shot, trapped, poisoned, infected with disease and sterilised and their lairs are destroyed with heavy machinery, fumigation and explosives. Introduced plants are manually ripped, bulldozed, poisoned and burned. These extreme measures are justified by perceptions that introduced species threaten native species, and that pest control can help alleviate this threat.

This approach has however failed on all fronts: it generally does not produce a sustained decline in the target “pest” species nor does it help “native” species.

Frequently it actually makes matters worse. When rabbits were culled on Macquarie Island, the resident cats turned to seabirds. And when the cats were removed, the rabbits destroyed the native vegetation. Very few pest control operations have even yielded knowledge on their efficacy.

A dingo sniffing a cat trail. Arian Wallach

Free control

The majority of threatened species recovery plans call for lethal control of introduced species, particularly predators. The poison 1080 is very effective at killing carnivores and sits at the front of the standard conservation first aid kit.

But instead of limiting the populations of foxes and cats, it often makes things worse. Dingoes, which otherwise control introduced predators, also eat the bait. With no other predators, foxes and cats increase.

Where poison-baiting is applied, many native mammals often decline due to higher predation pressure by foxes and cats. Wild herbivores, such as kangaroos and rabbits, also increase to unsustainable numbers and damage vegetation. Unlike controversial culling programs dingoes offer both an efficient and compassionate method of population control.

Although the dingo is one of the strongest examples known of the ecological role of an apex predator, there are currently no safe places for dingoes.

Unfriendly place for dingoes

Large carnivores are some of the most imperilled species on the planet. Usually, the debate rages between pastoralists — who wish to protect their livestock — and conservationists — who wish to protect predators.

In Australia, the situation is more complicated because dingoes have been caught up in an ongoing war on introduced species. National Parks are particularly dangerous places for dingoes, where the intensity of predator-control makes many pastoral lands seem like predator-friendly havens.

The common practice of shutting down “artificial” water points in conservation lands further excludes dingoes from large tracks of the arid zone. It is now clear that the very methods used to help recover threatened species have instead been major drivers of their decline.

We need a fresh start

We will probably never know how Australia’s ecological history would have played out had dingoes remained unharmed and introduced species naturally controlled. Although some species would have succeeded in establishing in Australia, they would not have had the dire impacts on local fauna and flora we have come to associate with introduced species.

Looking to the future, the conservation of dingoes offers a way forward for biodiversity conservation that is cost-effective, sustainable and ethical. Instead of spending money on fewer endangered species, we could broaden our view to the ecological mechanisms that enable species to adapt to change.

The Australian ecology may be significantly more resilient than we believe, and capable of successfully containing a mixture of the native and the introduced, if dingoes are allowed to recover. This will require major shifts in the way we see big predators, what we consider to be our role in promoting biodiversity, and an acceptance of introduced species as the permanent residents that they are and will continue to be.

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133 Comments sorted by

  1. Mike Swinbourne

    logged in via Facebook

    Hi Arian

    An important topic and one which is very much on my mind in my own research. I agree that predators are important for ecosystem health, but would also like to suggest that the mesopredator release hypothesis is somewhat controversial and would need more evidence to support it.

    The issue with dingoes is also how do you convince graziers to allow dingoes to be reintroduced? It is a highly emotive topic, and I suspect that no matter how strong the scientific case might be, you will never convince a great many of them and the political will may never be there.

    Have you ever thought about thinking smaller than dingoes? Say, reintroducing quolls and Tasmanian devils to areas of the mainland. They would perform an important predatory control of herbivores like rabbits, and would be unlikely to take livestock. Admittedly they couldn't control large animals like kangaroos - but definitely worth investigating.

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    1. Arian Wallach

      University Fellow (Adjunct), School of Environment at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Hi Mike

      Thank you for your response. I've been intimately involved with the pastoral industry since moving to live on a cattle station in SA. I agree, there is a great deal of resistance to mellow. However, pastoral stations are often more dingo-friendly than National Parks are. Many (OK - some) graziers recognise the potential benefits of leaving dingoes alone. Also, recently the organic accreditation system has disallowed the use of 1080 poison, which is a significant improvement.

      The continued use of poison baiting for fox and "wild dog" control in protected areas is a particular concern. If we could agree to start making our conservation lands more dingo-friendly, we could then think collaboratively on how to transition pastoral lands as well. While devils and quolls are unlikely to replace the dingo, their reintroduction is something I too welcome.

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  2. Dingo Simon

    Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

    Hello Arian and say gidday to Adam for me.
    Well I am glad you have now stood up and had your say.
    I know all farmers feel they have a right to graze their livestock everywhere on their properties ( unhindered by predators) but what no one else seems to mention is the damage done by sheep, goats, horses , donkeys etc that graze grass to the dirt and cause erosion etc.
    The main problem I think we have is the old redneck saying " a good dingo is a dead dingo " and while that mindset is very strong…

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    1. Arian Wallach

      University Fellow (Adjunct), School of Environment at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Thank you Simon

      I agree with you that we have gotten ourselves into a mess. And it is distressing to consider all the ways animals are being killed needlessly. The up side is that we have learned a lot from all this.

      Society is a rather cumbersome sort of beast, so we'll need to be patient - and - persistent. Shifts in society, as in ecology, seem to often occur all of a sudden.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      " Now the Wild Dog, well that is a bigger issue and I believe that must be removed quickly and methodically for the benefit of all.
      I have been dead against the use of 1080 for many reasons and the media have brought to our attention of the now 70,000 extra wild dogs running around Qld, "
      I would tend to agree Simon that it is wild dogs and other once domesticated animals that have been sufficiently uncared for that have become feral which are a greater problem than dingoes and Arian rightly…

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    3. Sandor von Kontz

      farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      Bra Purcell from the Schoo of Natural Sciences University of Sydney claims wild dogs fulfill the same ecological niche as pure bred dingos.

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    4. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Sandor von Kontz

      I cannot see that wild dogs or dingoes will behave any differently than town dogs when they get a taste for the kill. Except that you can track a town dogs back to its owner and sue his arse off for not keeping his dog under control, but you can't sue the owner of a dingo. For some reason there a bunch of people on this topic who earnestly believe that the noble old dingo, misunderstood scallywag that he is, is going to be on his best behaviour which I for one very much doubt. He is a dog and what's more, a dog without an owner.

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    5. Brad Purcell

      Wildlife ecologist at University of Western Sydney

      In reply to Sandor von Kontz

      No.Have you read chapter two in my book? The science used to characterise dingoes is heavily biased by ascertainment and the whole dingo, dingo hybrid, wild dog shebang is misconceived. The niche of a 'pure' bred dingo is as a show animal at the easter show, or as an education tool in captivity (not that the animals had been captured - they had simply been bred in a pound-like facility behind a sign that states the name and form [alpine, desert, fraser island etc etc], with no ecological function).

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    6. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Brad Purcell

      Brad, try and tell that to my neighbour who has lost sheep to domestic dogs and had to dispose the carcasses after shooting the mauled survivors.

      Once dogs get a taste of blood following a chase they are buggered and remain a danger to livestock until their death.

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    7. Brad Purcell

      Wildlife ecologist at University of Western Sydney

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      What do you mean Jack? They are pieces of different pies from different ovens ...
      Slice 1: When did domestic dogs attacking sheep become an ecological function?
      Slice 2: Hunting wildlife requires more strategy (see clip of an emu hunt in my documentary here http://www.terramater.at/productions/the-real-dingo/) than chasing and killing sheep in a paddock.
      Slice 3: Ecological function is how an animal responds to distribution and abundance of resources and competitors. If captive dingoes were released, would they hunt kangaroos like this http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AM10001.htm?

      It is unfortunate that your neighbour lost his sheep to a domestic dog attack but I don't see how it is analagous to ecological function of domestic dingoes on display

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    8. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Brad Purcell

      Hi Brad, 1. Domestic dog attack is a reality function of living near towns where dog owners do not adequately control their dogs.

      2. Hunting sheep in a paddock is much easier for a dog or dingo than chasing large wildlife when you are hungry ... or wanting an adrenalin rush.

      3. Domestic farm animals are resources for wild animals, these farm animals exist within the range of the dingo or wild dogs and so have a function as a potential source of food.

      4. I am reminded that Tasmanian graziers…

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    9. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Brad Purcell

      Excellent camera work, especially those aerial footage's.
      In the trailer the narrator said " bazaarly the dingo is not Native to Australia".
      Well ok, it has been established it arrived here from China about 18,000bp, but surely in that time it deserves to be called native?
      I wonder where emus, macropods originally came from ? hahaha

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    10. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Good one Jack, nice to see you promoting the same old same old about "European farmers imposing their farming practices upon the fragile Australian environment".
      The thing you learn pretty quick about farming is that every few years you should chuck away your old fact sheets and text books because farming systems change so rapidly in this country that its very difficult to keep up. 1/. we don't use European farming practices- might have 100 years ago but the not today, and 2/. Whilst a large part of Australia is most decidedly ancient and fragile, most of the good cropping areas like the Wimmera, Darling Downs, etc are not.

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    11. Sandor von Kontz

      farmer

      In reply to Brad Purcell

      Sorry Brad if I have misunderstood you. No I have not read your book but understood the transcript of your interview on a catalyst show about your research on Dingos. I again appologise for misquoting you.

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    12. Graham Houghton

      Archaeologist, Writer

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Actually that 18,000 date is not established; the more likely arrival of the dingo dog in Australia was about 4000BP. At most it may be c6000BP and may have arrived with the last migration of people into here from India as shown in recent human DNA analysis. Two points, Arian. Given that the dingo dog is not native to Australia, what controlled the kangaroo population before they arrived? And as for feral pest species being killed 'humanely', have you ever seen the results of dingo or other dog…

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    13. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Graham Houghton

      "Given that the dingo dog is not native to Australia, what controlled the kangaroo population before they arrived?" At a guess, thylacoleo (marsupial lion) might have controlled them up until extinction ~46 kya.

      It's not widely recognised that the top predator in Australia has for some time been homo sapiens sapiens (ref Bill Gammage, "The biggest estate on earth: how Aborigines made Australia ", https://theconversation.com/the-biggest-estate-on-earth-how-aborigines-made-australia-3787.

      Sadly over the last couple of centuries homo sapiens sapiens has been largely supplanted across much of Australia by homo sapiens gluteans (Smart A*** Man).

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  3. Geoff Anderson

    Brain Surgeon

    It is sad, and sadly ironic, that someone from Charles Darwin University would show such little understanding of evolution.
    Imposing a top level predator upon any ecosystem is going to cause havoc on all the existing fauna and flora.
    Introducing new predators to control pests is bad science. Remember the cane toad?
    The problem managing National Parks is economic.
    Governments wanting to save money see the environment as a politically cheap option: hairy nosed wombats don't vote, so cut programs saving them.
    An adequately resourced conservation network would create employment and protect biodiversity.
    Sadly Governments, especially Liberal and National Party ones, have never shown an understanding of the fundamental principles of nature conservation.
    I hoped our Universities did.

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    1. Simon Gilmore

      Lapsed Evolutionary Biologist

      In reply to Geoff Anderson

      Perhaps someone from Charles Darwin University would know more about ecology (rather than evolution...) than the average 'brain surgeon'. The role of apex predators in promoting biodiversity is well established. This may be a good place to start developing an understanding: http://ecite.utas.edu.au/72195

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    2. Noel D Preece

      Adjunct Principal Research Fellow at Charles Darwin and at James Cook University

      In reply to Geoff Anderson

      Perhaps Geoff misunderstood what Arian is proposing. Dingoes have been a top-order carnivore in Australia for more that 4,000 years, and are still the dominant carnivore in many remote parts of Australia. Top order predators influence populations of their prey, and of meso-predators, and are essential to population dynamics of most prey species, and by extension to the vegetation they consume. Removing top-order predators can and does cause havoc. That may be one of the reasons that feral cats have increased dramatically in some areas where dingoes have been exterminated.

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    3. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Geoff Anderson

      'Imposing a top level predator upon any ecosystem is going to cause havoc'
      Geoff, the top level predator in a farming sense is people. And people pay for what they eat. Dingoes don't .

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    4. Graham Houghton

      Archaeologist, Writer

      In reply to Simon Gilmore

      You can not separate evolution and ecology. The appropriate predators in the right place, Simon.

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    5. Simon Gilmore

      Lapsed Evolutionary Biologist

      In reply to Graham Houghton

      They are not the same concept, albeit related. One is the relationships of organisms to their surroundings (as the article deals with), the other is the process by which organisms have developed from previous forms (which the article doesn't deal with).

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    1. Brad Purcell

      Wildlife ecologist at University of Western Sydney

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      Dear Neville,

      I like your thoughts (and Arian's!). FYI, Shaun Ellis, 'The man who lives with wolves' has a similar viewpoint re: adrenalin in prey. Except, Shaun goes as far to say that the dominant 'wolf' will consume the most pumped up organ and that this then filters through to its excrement, which is how 'wolves' identify one another/threats through scent marks (also see Botswana Predator Conservation Trust research: http://bpctrust.org/bioboundary-project.asp). You may like to read my Churchill…

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    2. Brett Ibbotson
      Brett Ibbotson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      Great comments thanks Neville. Interesting to hear the perspective of someone who is experiencing the issue first hand and is also suggesting a solution.

      I work in regional NRM south of the fence and would love to see Dingoes back in the ecosystem but concede that it is never going to happen while they are such a perceived (and real) threat to sheep production.

      It is good that people are talking about it. For every problem there must be a solution.

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    3. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      "I don't care what it does to Wool, it is an anachronism and should be phased out; meat Sheep are another matter."
      That is your opinion based on your personal prejudice.
      Wool runs on solar energy and rain is a wonderful natural product which is actively sought by world markets. It will still be a wonderful natural product long after all the fossil fuel based fibres have had their day.

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    4. Brett Ibbotson
      Brett Ibbotson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmental Scientist

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Agreed Benjamin but they face some serious resistance in our sheep grazing region. We don't have many and any sighting of a dingo has significant resources directed at removing it. The pest control branch of the organisation measures its success by how many dogs were removed. The dingo is never going to have a significant influence on the ecosystem while there is a war waged against it. They are also a relatively easy target for control compared to cats which I see as a far greater threat (but to biodiversity, not livestock).
      Unless you get farmers involved in the conversation and solution there will be little progress.

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    5. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Brett Ibbotson

      Agreed. They may face resistance, but after reviewing a little bit of modern history, i'm putting my money on dingoes to win regardless of what we throw at them. If we want the result great-grandad got then we have to do what great-grandad did, and we're not doing that... yet.

      Rather than measuring success with a body count (which is a useless waste of time), perhaps you could measure success in 'area of land being used for sheep/goat production'. I'd wager that as time goes by south of the dog fence, the area of land being used for sheep/goats will decline independent of your body count.

      And you're right about farmers too!

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    6. Neville Mattick
      Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Brad Purcell

      Excellent thank you Brad, I have really enjoyed the links and especially your Churchill Fellowship report.

      The link between adrenalin and their habits is interesting to confirm the likelihood - wow!

      The pest control area is big business and in this day and age, chasing Dingoes with urine and dog poo' for traps isn't much more than a waste of time, harming both hunted and hunter alike.

      What I intend to do is turn them into a positive for my landscape; In my opinion Dingoes will prevail and Sheep will disappear from the region here shortly after the feral goats, I give it eight years.

      Actually the feral Goats seem to be the vector which introduced the Dingo to the Sheep country, once their numbers reduce they (Dingoes) move onto other feed. Some farmed the Goats by grading off the larger ones (for sale) which has seen their numbers rapidly increase, now that they are valueless again they return to being the pest they always were.

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    7. Neville Mattick
      Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Brett Ibbotson

      True Brett, if humanity can launch a drone in one Continent, strike in another all whilst the controller is in yet another Continent, then there is potential for a solution to coalesce with the Dingo - which must happen.

      We are a bit weak in Australia (obviously) and producers' should be compensated for the cost which is the initial penalty, psychological impact is entirely another factor, having had to patrol my paddocks after attacks and shoot young sheep is unhealthy - albeit a new phenomenon to our family. Compensation would improve the viability of producers' as we work on a solution.

      The three images on the top of the list at this site are mine: http://feralscan.org.au/wilddogscan/gallery.aspx?photodir=22

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    8. Neville Mattick
      Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Will Hunt

      I don't care about prejudice - period.

      We are discussing Dingoes here, but since you digress - my family has grazed sheep here in these hills continuously for 130 years, there is still a 'Wool wash' hole in the creek where my Ancestor toiled - so I do have some experience.

      Any economist running over the figures of Wool, realising that it is returning only 50% of what it was per head twenty years ago, plus all the management minutia (flies, lice, water stain, dermatitis, mulesing, shearing…

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    9. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Neville Mattick

      Our margins on sheep (and wool is a part of that) are as good as most people make out of grain, and I don't like the idea of some crazy person introducing dingoes where we haven't had them for 150 years on the basis of 'if they kill a few sheep it won't matter."
      It will matter to us a great deal, exactly the same as foxes do, and we shoot them as well.

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    10. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Brett Ibbotson

      I also had a look at Neville's photos. It would be absolutely devastating to find your sheep ripped by wild dogs, the anger and rage felt would be immeasurable.
      I noticed the fences you had seemed rather low, in my opinion. Wild dogs could easily clear the top of them. I have also found that if they want, just by pulling and continual working at the wire they will be able to make a sizable gap to crawl thru.
      Personally I think solar electric fencing is the way to go. And donkeys, heaps of donkeys…

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    11. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Hi Simon,

      I've worked on cattle stations in the arid zone that lost over 30% of calves (about $250K worth) in just a couple of months in the presence of several hundred donkeys. Lots of value-less donkeys also eat grass that could be used for lots of valuable calves.

      Also, if you (or anyobody else) were willing to finance 1.8m mesh with 7 hot wires for the hundreds of thousands of km's of fences out in the areas grazed by sheep in this country, then i'm sure many pastoralists would gladly give away the hassle of baiting. Most bait because its all they can do with the resources they've got, not because its their preference.

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    12. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Thanks Ben.
      I appreciate what you are saying.
      I also have worked on a few sheep and cattle properties, also went to Dookie Ag College in 1973 etc.
      I wasn't really suggesting fencing like I use, I only do it to make sure my dingoes don't escape and also to keep DAFF Biosecurity happy.
      I have seen sections of the dog fence and I have to admit in some places it only provides a token use as floods, camels, emus, roos wreck them.
      I guess what I was trying to infer ,if farmers are losing $x in stock…

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    13. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Oh Ben, I forgot to add, where the Qld dingo fence ends at Jimbour ( just up the road from me ) it is a 1.8m chain wire fence and stops beside a gun tree. A dog can just walk around it and is on " the other side". Totally useless.
      The Govt have made it a tourist attraction and erected an Information sign, installed a picnic table and rainwater tank.
      The mentality of that set up staggers me, as it does nothing to prevent a travelling wild dog.

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    14. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Did you have a picnic on the table and take a photo? he he

      I think you're right too - much of the available dog control money could be spent in better ways in many cases. Not all of the cost of dog control comes from government though, much of it comes from landholders themselves.

      Governments will have the ability to spend/allocate money how they see fit, and landholders can spend their own how they see fit.

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    15. Neville Mattick
      Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Brett Ibbotson

      Hi Brett, well the Alapcas are an adaptive approach to protection.

      Adaptation by both Alpacas and Sheep, both have to learn the threat and form a mob to be protected.

      Mobs that have had frequent attacks are already learning to run to the Alpaca group when an attack begins, also the Alpaca's themselves are learning as they were only weaners a year ago when we first added them.

      Isolated sheep don't stand much chance however.

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    16. Neville Mattick
      Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      You make some good points.

      If I were to implement the grade of fencing you suggest, it would likely cost about $800,000 to contain the boundary alone; Neighbours would not contribute their commitment as they would consider the standard Sheep fencing adequate already.

      Donkeys are effective, however they will likely become the next feral pest as have the litany of other creatures, especially along the riparian of the major river ten kilometres from here.

      Being puzzled about the presence of Sheep; Well we have had no problems since 1880 when my ancestor first settled here, so it is an adaptive approach for now, Sheep will likely disappear after the feral Goats run out in my opinion.

      Baiting and trapping aren't very effective as you say when looking at the wider picture and it is likely time for Government to assist Grazing enterprises to survive, however as usual in Australia there will likely be a dearth of support from Canberra!

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  4. Will Hunt

    Farmer

    What say I get some wild dogs and let them go in a Kindergarten full of children?
    Thats what it would be like from a sheeps point of view. My most destructive pests are long billed corellas and crows, but I can't see dingoes having an impact on them.

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  5. naren kumar

    retired

    Leave this land to the native residents and owners as human predators who set foot on this land (in fact anywhere) are more dangerous than all types of natural,so called, predators.Tasmanian devil is not what is projected,day in and day out, but those who distributed disease infected blankets to wipe out native residents who were an important part of the of the ecological system.

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  6. Greynomad Travelling

    logged in via Facebook

    We could start by controlling the domestic animals much more tightly. Chipping, registration and monitoring with heavy fines for offenders. That will slow the offenders. The we go after those already out there but leave the Dingoes alone...

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  7. John Foley

    Various ...

    I was tracking some wild dogs (part dingo) last year during the annual baiting. At various times the dogs ran right over the baits, didn't even pause to check the baits out. Back to camp a few days later radio national had a story that mentioned wild dogs were learning to avoid baits down in Victoria somewhere. Think they mentioned the behaviour was being passed down from mum to pup. I guess this is hardly surprising. Bit like antibiotics ... overuse the easy option and increasingly we are left…

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  8. Ken Dyer

    Knowledge Seeker

    Excellent article that makes a lot of sense. The dingo is Australia's apex predator. It is excluded from the parts of Australia that need a predator, by the dingo fence, erected in the 19th Century, and maintained at huge cost to the taxpayer.
    Last year, travelling up towards Broken Hill, I was appalled at the amazing numbers of feral goats, sharing pasture with sheep. It must drive the graziers crazy and detract from the quality of the sheep having to compete for food.
    I ask an obvious question. Is the dingo fence still needed in the 21st Century?

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    1. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Ken Dyer

      Ken, if you are thinking that dingoes would eat the goats & leave the sheep alone I think you would be disappointed. Sheep would be a far easier target than goats, so your soultion would only make things worse I believe

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    2. Ken Dyer

      Knowledge Seeker

      In reply to Will Hunt

      Thanks Will. Another post points this out and the damage dingoes can do to sheep. But there is also evidence that dingoes will control the feral population, such as foxes that also attack sheep, particularly lambs, and will also keep kangaroo numbers down.

      Quite a few farmers are using alpacas in their flocks and these protect sheep from dingoes, foxes and crows that attack lambs. Maremma sheep dogs also perform a similar function. Apparently, there are also trials using dingo urine to mark territory and repel other dingoes

      I guess this points to more closely managing livestock rather than letting them fend for themselves. It seems to me, as a city fella, nomading around, that there has got to be a better way for dingoes and sheep to coexist, rather than fencing them off ,shooting and poisoning them (the dingoes, that is).

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    3. Roger Goodman

      Climate Change Student

      In reply to Ken Dyer

      Here on the NSW north coast it appears that dingoes and wild dogs help control foxes. In our area we have both pure and crossbred dingoes but no foxes (or rabbits). A few kilometres up the road this is reversed -- there are foxes and rabbits but no wild dogs.

      Let's not forget that Australia's mammalian fauna is a shadow of what it was before the arrival of the first humans. Tens of thousands of years ago the continent was blessed with giant wombats, giant lizards, giant kangaroos and marsupial lions. There is no "natural" Australia left -- so it's a stretch to say that dingoes are not natives.

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    4. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Ken Dyer

      Sure Ken ... and feral cats are very efficient controllers of rabbits ... and lizards and birds and any other small wildlife that moves.

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    5. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      That's an important point, Jack. Cane Toads were brought to Australia to control the Cane Beetle, and Kookaburras from NSW were introduced to WA to control Tiger Snakes. In hindsight, these were all disasters. Introducing so-called 'native' Dingoes is a bit different to those examples, but it highlights the need for good research and common sense before the introduction of any control agent.

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  9. Jack Arnold

    Polymath

    HI Arian, somehow you appear to suggest that tourists are the major problem for the NT economy and the "Chamberlain solution" is a possible solution.

    I would have to disagree with this hypothesis because the problem is not tourists but rather introduced feral animals like camels, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, cats and the worst of all, the feral grazier, who brought most of these species with them when they commenced natural destruction attempting to reproduce European agricultural practices in the Australian environment.

    Perhaps a better solution would be to 'farm' the native animals that have already be shown to have many health benefits for human consumption.

    Few thinking persons would support dogs controlling any livestock numbers once they have viewed a damaged carcass and contemplated the pain which the victim endured before an agonising death.

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    1. Arian Wallach

      University Fellow (Adjunct), School of Environment at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Jack Arnold

      Hi Jack
      I didn't understand your first sentence.
      From what I think I did understand, I do agree with you that there is a very real problem of overgrazing by wild and domestic animals. Dingoes are very effective at controlling wild herbivores, but they cannot control our domestic livestock because we manage them to maximise their reproduction and densities.
      It is also worth noting that both native and introduced species can become equally destructive when their populations erupt.

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      C'mon Arian, get out of your laboratory and into the real agricultural world where wild dogs are a real menace to livestock.

      Then, look at the environmental damage inflicted upon the Australian semi-arid landscape by cloven hoofed animals, and ask yourself, "Is it the best thing for Australia for a grazier to extract $2/acre income from grazing these feral animals on marginal semi-arid grasslands when the cost of rehabilitation is likely to exceed $20/ acre?"

      Dingoes are a very effective method for controlling feral tourists ... ask the Chamberlain family that was persecuted by the NT government of the day after a dingo took baby Azaria at the Ayers Rock camp site.

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    3. Graham Houghton

      Archaeologist, Writer

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      Arian, 'destructive' is a subjective judgement when applied to native species. The environment will impose a corrective balance. Introduced species are a very different issue. You should not confuse them.

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  10. John Wilby

    Electrician

    I am in the fortunate position of living and working on large cattle and sheep stations in South West Queensland, and my skills are trade based so I have no pre-conceived ideas on conservation, ecology, evolution or bio-diversity. Having assisted many graziers with feral pest eradication including "Dingoes" by baiting, trapping and shooting I would have to say that the animals I have encountered and destroyed by one means or another are nothing like a Dingo. My impression of a Dingo is like what…

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  11. Sandor von Kontz

    farmer

    Thank you for this. I am glad there are other peole too who have these thoughts. I always hought, we cannot turn back the clock and rid Australia of introduced sspecies. So we should resigh ourselves to the fact and give nature a hand finding a new balance by supporting the predators, which in the long term keep everything in a balance. We have to find a way of living with them and in an healthy environment the predation on livestock will be tolerable especially with the use of guardian dogs.

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    1. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Sandor von Kontz

      "the predation on livestock will be tolerable"
      No it will not
      The idea of putting dingos into farm land is as repugnant to me as the idea of a pack of bikies with pitbull terriers moving in next door to you. Especially if you have small children.
      If the public perceive a need for dingoes in National Parks, first thing, as several correspondents have noted, get rid of the wild dogs. Then put a dog fence around and keep the dingoes in, and set up a fund to compensate farmers for the damage done to livestock. Why should farmers have to shoulder the burden of this on their own?

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    2. Sandor von Kontz

      farmer

      In reply to Will Hunt

      Hi Will, what I meant was, when you have a heakthy environment, the foundation on which we farmers base our life, to predators are vital and the predation on our stock in healthy environment is minimal. See what hapened in Europe after the reintroduction of Wolf and Lynx.
      More so since if we do not interfere in the family structure of the dingos by poisoning they will keep much more to their territory rather than come into our paddocks especially if we run Maremmas with our flock.

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  12. Jason England

    repairer

    "there are currently no safe places for dingoes."

    Can't believe I read that.

    Aren't all our national parks protected areas for dingoes?

    Which then allows this dog and all other feral dogs the right to kill our native wildlife, free of any possible challenge.

    What needs to be studied is how our wildlife in a national park that is completely free of these feral dogs would compare with the majority of our NPs that are infested with these predators.

    Has anyone ever carried out that study?

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Jason England

      Yes Jason, National Parks are protected areas for dingoes and wild dogs and blackberries ... and just about every other feral pest you can name. The problem as described above is that the fencing is NOT secure enough to keep the bastards in the National Park and state governments refuse to provide sufficient funds to upgrade the fencing to a satisfactory standard. Indeed, the landholder is required to pay the total cost of the boundary fence, rather than a half share as occurs with civilian neighbours.

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    2. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jason England

      Yes they have; https://theconversation.com/dingo-poisoning-reduces-native-animal-numbers-24281. This is one such recent example suggesting there is some positive influence from the presence of dingoes compared to area's without them. It is not conclusive but raises some interesting points for consideration.

      Arian Wallach, author of this article, was also member of a team that won a Eureka award last year for research showing the dingoes contribution to a healthy ecosystem, using the cattle station she;s based on as part of the research model.

      No, dingoes are not protected in National parks any more than any other species. A decree that the animal is a "pest", native or not, will introduce a control program by park management. What is being suggested in this article and a growing body of research is that the declaration of the Dingo as a "pest" suits a very minor group of people occupying Australia and does nothing in contributing to sustaining biodiversity.

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  13. Dingo Simon

    Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

    I see a few people keep making reference the dingo arrived here 4000 years ago.
    Originally that was based on the discovery of a canine skeleton found in an underground cave on the Nullarbor, that was carbon dated to about 3500 years ago, then another was discovered on the east coast of NSW near Eden, roughly about the same age.
    So began the assumption the dingoes arrived with Asian sea farer's by boat/canoe and landed near Broome.
    It was originally stated that it was a pregnant female and it was…

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    1. Charlie Carter

      Biologist (ret) tour operator

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Simon,
      A bit more careful reading of my former colleague Alan Wilton's paper shows that he actually said "4,600 - 18,300"
      So, lots of uncertainty there, as is the nature of this kind of evidence.
      They may have been here only 4,000 years or so.
      Mike Smith, in his comprehensive review, "The Archaeology of Australian Deserts" 2013, argues that the best evidence from the DNA and the archaeology suggest "about 4,600"

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    2. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Charlie Carter

      Gidday Charlie, yes I know if you read the " fine" print it does suggest that.
      But I have since heard some scientists have found Aboriginal Rock Art in remote parts of the Kimberley where they have found some of the art was made 40,000 plus years ago, and in some of those paintings are figures of dogs.
      So I guess for the moment we will never know exactly when the dingoes arrived, but when you look back in time and see all the Chinese, Egyptian, Greek dynasties etc that have come and gone, yet we still have the dingo with us, it must say something about it's ability to survive and the role it plays in the environment.

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    3. Charlie Carter

      Biologist (ret) tour operator

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Simon,
      Rock art is notoriously difficult to date.
      Can you provide a reference that dates pictures of dogs "40,000 years old"?
      The archaeological data is much more reliable.

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    4. Charlie Carter

      Biologist (ret) tour operator

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Simon,
      This is getting a bit tedious.
      Newspaper articles are scarcely references.
      Even so, nowhere does it say the 'old pictures' were dogs.
      Art sites typically contain different aged items, including quite recent.
      By the way your previous comment re "fine print' is misleading in the extreme.
      The reference was as I cited it, in other words the two figures were given together.
      You chose to cite the first part of a date spread, and not the second part. Deliberately tendentious.

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    5. Graham Houghton

      Archaeologist, Writer

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      There is no evidence for the dingo dog here much before the so-called local 'neolithic' (a European cultural concept) of about 4500-6000BP. This associates it nicely with the last big human migration to this continent from India, as attested by recent human genome analysis. The dingo, a placental mammal, is not native to Australia. It isn't even attested in SE Asia until about 4000BCE. That's not to say it hasn't found its place here; just as we all have - in our own way.

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  14. Rick Sullivan

    Vast and Various

    Just a comment here, gents. Please tread carefully with the 1080 issue. You'll probably already be aware , but it's a very useful and selective tool in Western Australia where it (Sodium Monofluoroacetate) occurs naturally in many plants native to WA. It would be a travesty if misinformation (whether deliberate or unintentional) led to its de-registration for Declared Animal (pest species) control.

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    1. Sandor von Kontz

      farmer

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      not only that, but I found a bait in the middle of my housepaddock, ca 200 m from the house, after aerial baiting up in the hills. LHPA told me an eagle probably picked it up and than dropped it again? However, it got there travelling at least 3 km. The whole idea of widespread poisoning of complete landscapes seems madness at best criminal at worst.

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  15. Jason England

    repairer

    "Even the best-funded National Parks are failing to preserve threatened species, and declines and extinctions are occurring both in and out of protected areas."

    Arian, the reason for this is because the dingo is protected in these NPs and if we can't do anything about the dingo, we likewise cant do anything about dogs, foxes, cats etc. so our wildlife will always live in great danger.

    While they live at all, that is.

    The more we extend our NPs the more we endanger our native wildlife.

    The solution becomes very obvious.

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  16. Ian Gunn

    Veterinarianr; Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Services; Project Director of AGSRCA at Monash University

    My congratulations Arian and Adam, The evidence is clear , we must support the role of the dingo within the ecosystem for the surival and benefit of our native species. Yes, there is a conflict and there will always be - very similar to the wolves in the States, nothing is perfect for all. The dingo has a significant role within restricted regions i.e.. in National or State Parks or isolated regions away from rural production. I support the reintroduction of the dingo into areas to control feral…

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  17. Peter Rutherford

    logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

    I note in "scientific" papers where a particular point is being advocated, key parts of the conversation are left out. A number of commentators on this article have raised the issue of wild dogs. Wild dogs do not receive one mention in this opinion piece. There is increasing evidence in southeast NSW, where wild dogs and fox numbers have been reduced, there has been a resurgence on the populations of southern brown bandicoots (SBB) and long footed potoroos (LFP). Both these species are listed as…

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    1. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Peter Rutherford

      Well said, Peter. One of the things that concerns me is that the use of 1080 is being branded as an "extreme measure". The loss of it as a control tool in WA would be a huge blow to controlling declared animals.

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  18. Arian Wallach

    University Fellow (Adjunct), School of Environment at Charles Darwin University

    A new article has just been published by Crowther et al. in the Journal of Zoology: "An updated description of the Australian dingo (Canis dingo Meyer, 1793)" http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jzo.12134/abstract. The article highlights several interesting issues regarding our attempt to distinguish between "pure" dingoes and "wild dogs". Coat colour is highly variable in true dingoes and is not reliable for identification. Like wolves and husky dogs, there is high morphological overlap between some domestic breeds and dingoes, making identification difficult. Culling of dingoes that do not fit into our preconceived notions of a correct dingo appearance is therefore unwarranted.

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  19. Benjamin Allen

    Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

    Arian presents a nice (and popular) idea. But there's only one problem - its wrong, and it wont work.

    Words like "evidence" are thrown around like confetti when discussing dingoes roles. References and appeals to almost anything but the actual data are rife. I'm not going to outline all the many inaccuracies in the article and the ensuing discussion, its already been done over and over again. Google it.

    But its worth noting that because these inaccuracies continue to be deliberately brushed…

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    1. Arian Wallach

      University Fellow (Adjunct), School of Environment at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      What the ongoing debate on dingoes reveals is that we lack an agreed-upon standard for evidence-based decision making in practically every sphere of science - excluding medicine.

      The science on climate change has encountered this very same problem. How are we to decide when there is sufficient evidence to warrant change?

      Is it the prestige of the journals? The number of articles? The number of scientists? The prestige of the scientists? Issues related to conflict of interest?

      As things currently stand, it is certainly possible to hinder change from occurring in almost any field of science. Medical science may be helpful in providing some guidance on how to resolve this.

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    2. John Foley

      Various ...

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      I've stopped listening to these type of claims as they give me nothing to work with. Unlike, say, the study of dingo movements in southern NSW, which I found to be really useful (sorry for the lack of a reference, I'll assume you'd be familiar with it). This type of information informs my decisions and helps me justify these to people who have other preconceived notions. There is just not enough research being carried out, and here we are stuck between those arguing for their utopia and those scared for the livelihoods.

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    3. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      Here, here. I couldnt agree with you more Arian.

      It is clear that we indeed lack an agreed-upon standard of evidence-based decision making when it comes to dingoes. And I wholeheartedly support your idea to look to medicine as a guide.

      When the bulk of dingo researchers eventually do this, they'll find a well-established scientific paradigm of experimental work; one where claims are substantiated through reproducable studies that manipulate, replicate, randomise, standarise etc, and not the…

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    4. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      I don't think that interpretation of medical research/development practice is well founded, Ben.

      Medical science is not based around maintaining the "status quo" in preference to trying something new as there is objection from others within the community. The protocols are set up to allow testing to proceed in the safest way possible without the hinderance of needing mass acceptance of a proposal/trial. Surgery is still very much the wild wild west of medicine with new techniques being tried without…

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    5. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Scott Morris

      Thanks Scott, but i'm not quite sure I understand your comments.

      The field of science (including medicine) has well-established methods of enquiry, such as experimental methods which, if followed, permit definitive statements or reliable inferences to be made. Most dingo research doesnt do this. Baseline observations are valid, but they're nothing more than just that - observations - which cannot be used to make reliable inferences. Its the attempted comparisons between observations and inferences…

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    6. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Thanks for the response, Ben. It appears a difficult subject with many variables and no “white walls” that easily confine mishaps and mistakes; a luxury granted to most other scientific disciplines.

      I agree there need to be clear constraints on the ‘roll out’ and any mass implementation of any new idea. Perhaps I’m confusing your statements to mean “don’t try this at home”, but rather what could be said is “we need to ensure this is tried in well monitored lower risk areas”?

      If one does choose…

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    7. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Scott Morris

      If people want to evaluate the merits of 'doing nothing' vs 'baiting, shooting or whatever', then they need to do it properly, which will require manipulative experiments with treated and untreated areas, monitored before and after the treatment over time. There is no other way. Less than handful of studies have done this - none of which have been produced by the Eureka Award winners.

      I dont care if its done in high risk areas (e.g. sheep country) or low-risk areas (e.g. cattle country) provided…

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    8. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Some interesting points again, Ben.

      I don't think there's much debate about the necessity to measure experimental results. Perhaps my difference to your view with regard to risk was to take a broader approach and consider biodiversity impacts on native species as much as on livestock. Considering introduction of dingoes into a sensitive area with an established and well documented biodiversity of native species could also prove detrimental. Equally, an unsupportive or unwelcoming farming community…

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    9. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Scott Morris

      Monitoring biodiversity (or the little critters or plants we're interested in) should be - as you say - an indispensable part of studies trying to claim baiting is bad for biodiversity. I'm in total support of the broader approach you refer to.

      Re snap-shots. Spending a long weekend at a site, once, is not going to tell you scat about the ecological processes going on at the site. Any layperson can work that one out, but Dr's and Profs will try to convince you its enough.

      Dogs will usually…

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    10. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      There's no debating you need multiple points of data. I agree with your sentiment that it needs to be more than a weekend here and there to provide reliable data. It would be interesting to see the standard deviation between some of the results as, mathematically, you can not derive a standard deviation from 1 or 2 measurements that would statically satisfy as more than an anomaly.

      Perhaps this will require a collaborative approach to resolve as an animal with a 50km^2 natural range is going to…

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    11. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Scott Morris

      Thanks Scott. I'm constantly dumbfounded at how little some people are required to do to be awarded a PhD these days. I know people that have had every single piece of their PhD utterly refuted and proven to be unreliable, but they still retain their PhDs and go on to be the go-to "experts" in their field. If they had been athletes their awards would be revoked, but not in academia, where merely the publication of a paper (however rubbish) is all that matters.

      I wish Arian all the best for her work in northern South Australia, and I really look forward to seeing some manipulative experimental work to come from it. It would be nice to one day see a manipulative experiment which actually showed a drop of evidence for dingo control-induced trophic cascades.

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  20. Lyn Watson

    Cynologist - Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Centre

    A really provocative article, Arian. Thank you. Many comments are of the predictable type.
    I am challenged, rewarded and fortunate to have many dingoes of original genome to study here at DDC, and now in our 25th year of it. There are wild born animals, and many generations born right on site. We note behaviour, metabolic changes, facilitate all sorts of non invasive research by selected applicants from universities around the globe. We have made many ground breaking discoveries of our own which…

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  21. Joanne McKay

    logged in via Facebook

    IMPORTANT INDICATORS of the ESSENTIAL and UNDENIABLE ROLE of the NATIVE Canis dingo regardless of DNA linage or rock art paintings....

    An important indicator of domestication is the presence of the amylase (AMY2B) genes, which help the animals digest starch, thereby enabling them adapt to an agricultural diet. The researchers found that most dog breeds had a high number of amylase genes - except Siberian husky and dingo, who we know never lived within agrarian societies
    http://www.isciencetimes.com/articles/6689/20140116/dogs-wolves-common-ancestor-interbreeding.htm

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  22. Helen Bergen

    Researcher

    I’m concerned about the comment that kangaroos “increase to unsustainable numbers and damage vegetation” when the actual science dispels those two myths.

    Unfortunately these myths – which are more a marketing message carefully promulgated by the commercial industry - are repeated as scientific fact so often that no one even thinks to check the unscientific premises on which these statements are based.

    Reiterating – there is actually no science to support the assertion of unsustainable…

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    1. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Helen Bergen

      I don't know about 'the science ' Helen, but well remember driving my car between the Daly River road and Wangi Station when I was working up there in the 1960's. There were roos and wallabies everywhere, then I came into a clear patch and there were thousands. I started counting, got to 700 before I gave up, there were at least 10 times that. Obviously they hadn't heard about the 'just one joey to independence per year for 8 years of breeding' rule, total plague proportions and even crawling through at walking pace they were impossible not to hit. I used to hit 3 or 4 every time I went through there. Perhaps numbers crashed "by 35-60% pa during drought" I don't know, even so it would be more humane to shoot them rather than let them starve to death as you seem to imply.

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    2. Arian Wallach

      University Fellow (Adjunct), School of Environment at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Helen Bergen

      Hi Helen

      Thank you for your thoughtful criticism, you raise some issues I hadn't considered.

      I agree with you that in many wildlife management spheres we confuse 'effect' with 'impact', and that there are strong financial and emotive drivers to exaggerate. This is particularly the case when the species in question is not native.

      I certainly do not support culling programs of kangaroos (or of any other animal for that matter), nor do I support unsustainable hunting.

      Having said that…

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    3. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      Hi Arian,

      I was interested in your comments about studies that "show that where dingoes are controlled kangaroos can reach very high densities and contribute to vegetation loss". While I personally believe this happens and am presently trying to publish some of my own research which supports this, I am not aware of a single available study which measures vegetation responses to measured changes in dingoes. Can you please identify the studies you are referring to?

      There are few empirical studies…

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    4. Arian Wallach

      University Fellow (Adjunct), School of Environment at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Hi Ben,

      Your publication record does show familiarity with the literature, so I assume you're asking to engage in a debate about evidence and the scientific method. An interesting topic but probably unsuitable to this venue.

      There are interesting parallels developing between climate science and trophic cascade science. For example, there are still today people in academic and government circles that do not agree with the notion that humans contribute to climate change.

      This has spurred an effort to survey the opinions of climatologists, finding that "only" 97-98% support this view.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveys_of_scientists'_views_on_climate_change

      Do we need a 100% agreement on trophic cascades before we lay down the guns? (and this of course ignores the ethical reasons)

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    5. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      Arian,

      I'm not seeking to engage in a debate, nor am I interested in climate change here. I'm interested in dingoes role/s in trophic cascades.

      Being in the process of writing up my own work on the subject, I'm genuinely asking you if you know of any published studies that measure vegetation responses to measured changes in dingoes.

      Your published journal articles, your original Conversation post (above), and your subsequent comments have advocated the positive management of dingoes - justified…

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    6. Arian Wallach

      University Fellow (Adjunct), School of Environment at Charles Darwin University

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      The two studies I mentioned support the dingo-->herbivore-->plant model for the arid zone, and a recent study showed similar trends in forested areas. Described here:

      http://conservationmagazine.org/2014/03/unwanted-side-effects-poisoning-dingoes/

      Most studies have compared sites with differing management histories, and a before-after study is included in Wallach et al. 2010 Ecology Letters.

      More longterm studies are certainly needed, and I have a great interest in these. My previous study sites were short lived, only because every one of them was eventually poison-baited.

      Since dingoes are controlled across the entire continent, it is problematic to find places where dingoes have been left alone for a significant time frame. This is the purpose of the Dingo for Biodiversity Project http://www.dingobiodiversity.com/

      I hope that current dingo-recovery study sites, both of mine and of other researchers, remain 'dingo-friendly' for many years to come.

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    7. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      Thanks Arian,

      I'm familiar with those studies. Both Letnic and Crowther (2013) and Colman et al (2014) were snap-shot studies - i.e. no measured responses of vegetation to measured changes in dingoes.

      Your study in Ecology Letters interests me because it is one of the few that show comparisons between baited and unbaited areas at Time 1 and Time 2. But I cant see any data on responses of vegetation to the changes observed for dingoes (i'm looking at it right now).

      From what I can tell…

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    8. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      The photo of the dingo in that 1st link looks very similar to one of the very early photo's that Dr Matthew Crowther used in his latest paper.
      You don't often see dingoes looking like that.

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    9. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      "Since dingoes are controlled across the entire continent, it is problematic to find places where dingoes have been left alone for a significant time frame."

      Arian, are you saying that dingoes are controlled in national parks?

      That's not from my experience. The only time I have seen that happen is inadvertently during a rare fox baiting program in a NP.

      It's my experience that all canid predators get a free pass in NPs.

      Do you know any different?

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    10. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jason England

      I can say from first hand observation that dingoes are targeted by baiting in national parks. Spend some time on the NSW far south coast yourself, and perhaps visit the lovely "1080 Beach" (actual parks name) - managed by NSW Parks and Wildlife as a National Park.

      Rare fox baiting? Hardly. The area around 1080 beach has been undergoing baiting in the last 12 months for no less than 7 months duration with ground based baits laid from the ground (not arial baiting). This happens at least every 2 years if not more regularly.

      The issue with 1080 bait is that it is indiscriminate in what it kills. If the animal is a predator/meat eater, it will be poisoned if it spends any time in a 1080 baited area.

      No more scientific than the opinion offered by Jason, but easily substantiated if you care to drive to the national parks in NSW and look for the large number of 1080 bait signs posted around them, particularly the closer to pastoral land the parks are.

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    11. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Scott Morris

      Yes, Scott, NSW coastal NPs have recently been carrying out fox baiting programmes to assist with the breeding and survival of shore birds and that is the only place I have encountered it.

      I was only aware that it happened in the far north NSW but if it also happens elsewhere that is wonderful.

      I have been trying to get my neighbouring NP in Qld to do that for the last 25 years to protect the local wildlife but with no success.

      Are you aware of any other states that bait for feral predators in their NPs?

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    12. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Jason England

      Most states bait (with 1080) for dingoes, foxes and/or pigs in both pastoral land and also some national parks, to varying degrees and for different reasons. National parks are "landholders" too, and have a legal obligation to control declared pest animals (such as wild dogs) just like any other landholder if they're located in a place subject to that kind of legislation (e.g. SE Australia).

      Baiting in national parks is common in some places around Australia. But it does not occur to the degree that some people might claim or try to convince you, certainly not in all national parks anyway.

      Claims that 'all national parks', 'most national parks', or even just 'national parks' in general are unsafe places for dingoes because of baiting is just pure nonsense, and is never accompanied by data that show it. Dingoes in approximately one-third of Australia (which includes some whopping great parks/reserves) have never even seen a 1080 bait - ever.

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    13. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Thanks for that, Ben.

      I see so much evidence [ tracks/scats etc] of dogs in NPs. Is there any special procedure I should go through to get a baiting programme started?

      I disagree with Scott that 1080 is indiscriminate if it is buried. I haven't seen it kill a native. And most natives in most states have some immunity.

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    14. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Jason England

      Jason,

      1080 is not indiscriminate - thats another furfie. Find out more at http://www.feral.org.au/pestsmart/wild-dogs.

      Buried or not, to kill an animal with a 1080 bait requires ALL of the following:
      (1) the animal must eat/ingest it
      (2) the animal must be susceptable to the toxin if they do eat it
      (3) the bait must contain enough 1080 to inflict a lethal dose for the animal

      Often, non-target animals wont even eat a dog/fox bait, so it wouldnt matter how much 1080 is in it. At other…

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    15. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Ben, i can't see any scientific justification for you comment. Can your please provide evidence that wildlife consuming 1080 are not susceptible to 1080? Perhaps some published research papers with "more than snapshot" research? I'd like to see research indicating that meat eaters, not omnivores and herbivores, are unaffected by 1080 based on their 'naturalisation' to local environmental conditions.

      As for Jason's comment that's it's only recent, i guess that's all relative. I've been going to…

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    16. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Scott Morris

      Scott, as I said, it's good if that's happening but I've been knocking about NNSW and SEQ for many decades and it is only recently that I have seen baiting signs in some coastal parks and when I have enquired I was told it was to protect nesting shore birds from predation from foxes.

      Just prior to this there had been an outcry about the disappearance in NNSW of birds like the Beach Stone Curlew and they are now making a comeback as are echidnas and other disappearing natives.

      I have an annual…

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    17. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jason England

      From a MSDS for 1080:
      "Advice to doctor: No effective antidote is known. Treat symptomatically. Establish respiration; create artificial airway if necessary."
      "Exposure Standards:
      This material has a TWA value of 0.05 and STEL value of 0.15. Both values expressed as mg/m3. Exposure values at the STEL (Short Term Exposure Limit) is an exposure value that should not be exceeded for more than 15 minutes and should not be repeated for more than 4 times per day. There should be at least 60 minutes…

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    18. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      It is interesting, Simon. The MSDS and other published data from manufacturers/suppliers don't really indicate the longevity of 1080 under exposure to elements. They do indicate that it doesn't degrade if kept cool and dry, basically.

      The result leaving on average 2.5mg of 1080 in each bait after 8 months exposure is consistent with fox bait quantity of 1080 (3mg). The initial baits they were using have equivalent dose to the much stinger "Doggone" style baits, though they were injecting baits…

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    19. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Scott Morris

      Scott, what really concerns me, is the continual use of 1080 all over Australia for so many years, and that this poison is being dumped twice a year and there is definitely no follow up to collect unused baits or the dead animals.
      All the propaganda spewed out by Govt , Local Council and other Authorities does not justify the sheer arrogant and aggressive act to poison so many animals and the Environment.
      It is just an extremely expensive band aid treatment that is not successful.

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    20. Jason England

      repairer

      In reply to Scott Morris

      Scott, have you ever been involved in a dog/fox-baiting programme?

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    21. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jason England

      Jason, have you ever been anything more than a troll in environmental topics posted for discussion? I can claim what i like on the web, the reality may be far different. Presenting published research results and data provided by those producing the chemical in question here holds far more substance than personal anecdotes.

      It would be preferable for your engagement to contain some assessment or response to the subject matter in question, rather than an irrelevant deflection. It indicates a lack of substance to your claims and a desire to engage in a 'muck slinging' match. Good luck with that - hopefully Ben can present a more intelligent contribution.

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    22. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Simon, a few facts:1080 (Sodium Monofluoroacetate) has been used successfully in Western Australia for many years as a selective and environmentally sound poison. Sodium Monofluoroacetate occurs naturally in species of Western Australian native plant (Oxylobium and Gastrolobium), so WA natives have evolved with a relatively high tolerance to it. It's been a wonderful tool for the control of environmentally disastrous introduced species including foxes, feral cats, wild dogs, dingoes, feral pigs and…

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    23. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Rick Sullivan

      It always amazes me how a discussion of dingoes' possible ecological roles always degenerates into propaganda throwing about 1080. The truth is out there, is very accessible to the public, and is easy to understand.

      I stand by my earlier comments. Unless the animal is (1) susceptible to the toxin, (2) eats the bait or a carcass containing some residue, and (3) the bait or the bits of carcass it ate contain enough 1080 to kill it, then it wont die. You dont need to be a rocket scientist to understand…

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    24. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Thanks Ben - appreciate the thoughtful response. I've reviewed some of those links previously. Of interest is the second point of the abstract for the first link you shared: "Impacts on non-target species must be minimized, but can be difficult to predict or quantify." I'm not sure the other articles do anything to support your claims that the use of 1080 has some discrimination against non-target species as they all list this as a side effect of 1080 use.

      I'd suggest your comments on the toxicity…

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    25. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Scott Morris

      Scott,

      Regarding 1080 being absorbed through the skin... Are you worried that native fauna susceptible to 1080 are laying on top of baits, carrying them in their pouches, or using them as padding in their nests? Seriously, if you are trying to convince people that skin absorption of 1080 is a significant issue for native fauna, then we all better go find that tree stump.

      I take your point about sub-lethal doses. Certainly there is merit in investigating ethical concerns with sub-lethal doses…

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    26. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Scott Morris

      You bring up some good points Scott.
      I just began reading one of those links Ben suggested.

      http://www.apvma.gov.au/products/review/docs/1080_final_review_report.pdf
      On page 5 under the heading Overview, last paragraph says ,

      " From the public submissions made to the review, it was evident that there was strong public concern about the humaneness of 1080, and that the community considered that this issue should be considered by the review. While the APVMA noted the community concerns, it did not base its regulatory decisions on this matter as animal welfare is not a specific criterion under the Agvet Codes that can be taken into account in making decisions about the future use of 1080.".

      Animal Welfare is not a specific criterion?????????????
      Just says to me they don't care who 1080 affects.

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    27. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Rick Sullivan

      If you have watched a dog, horse, cow or deer die from 1080 baiting, you will be affected by this for the rest of your life.
      It is one of the most evil poisons.
      Why has it been banned in nearly every country in the world except Aust and NZ ?
      Dropping this bait all over the country is environmentally obscene.
      Common sense will have to prevail soon.
      If farmers continue to leave their stock unattended and unprotected in areas where they know wild dogs exist, it says to me if they don't look at better methods to protect their stock they simply don't value their stock.
      The Qld Govt states we are experiencing stock losses of over $68m pa.
      Well if even a 1/3 of that was spent in better fencing, professional shooters and Guardian animals
      there would be no need for baiting and all Stock producers experience a rise in their bottom line.

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    28. Scott Morris

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Benjamin Allen

      Ben, earlier on this topic you said:

      "1080 is not indiscriminate - thats another furfie.

      Buried or not, to kill an animal with a 1080 bait requires ALL of the following:
      (1) the animal must eat/ingest it
      (2) the animal must be susceptable to the toxin if they do eat it
      (3) the bait must contain enough 1080 to inflict a lethal dose for the animal"

      I have provided some comment that these 3 points are incorrect:
      1) 1080 poisons by direct ingestion and secondary mechanisms. All published…

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    29. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      Dear Dingo Simon, I can only assume by your comments and opinions (and possibly your nickname) that your focus is narrowed towards the well-being of dingoes. You'll note my comments were restricted to the proper use of 1080 in Western Australia as that is where my own experience with this environmentally friendly selective control tool has been. Please re-visit my comments. And for you to comment "If farmers continue to leave their stock unattended and unprotected in areas where they know wild dogs…

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  23. Phillip Chalmers

    Doctor at Private and Hospital medicine

    The dingo is an invader species

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    1. Benjamin Allen

      Dingo ecologist at University of Queensland

      In reply to Arian Wallach

      Arian,

      Just following up on my earlier questions...

      Do you know of any other other studies that contain data showing measured responses of vegetation to measured changes in dingoes?

      And, do you have any data on the distribution/density of 1080 usage across Australia that would verify your comments?

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