ENDANGERED: Experts believe pure bred dingoes could soon become extinct.
ENDANGERED: Experts believe pure bred dingoes could soon become extinct. Kingfisher Bay Resort

Dingo extinction feared by experts

THE State Government will not change its dingo management strategy on Fraser Island despite wildlife advocates claiming it will lead to the extinction of the endangered species.

The Save Fraser Island Dingoes group held a conference in Hervey Bay last week and estimated the dingo population could be as low as 71 or as high as 176, only slightly off Queensland Parks and Wildlife's official dingo numbers of between 100-200.

QPW insists the population is "strong and healthy" and in October 2017 confirmed there would be no significant changes made to the controversial strategy after a four-month audit.

Under the strategy, rangers are allowed to shoot repeated "high-risk" offending dingoes, ones which lunge, bite, attack or bail up a person.

The strategy also includes hefty fines for anyone who feeds or interacts with dingoes to prevent habituation of dingoes and reduce the risk of attacks.

Save Fraser Island Dingoes advocate Jannean Dean fears the Fraser Island dingo could soon be lost forever.

"You need a minimum of 200 (dingoes) to have a viable population and even with the numbers the Government is supplying, it's still not sufficient," Ms Dean said.

 

Fraser Island - dingo gate.

Photo: Alistair Brightman
Fraser Island - dingo gate. Photo: Alistair Brightman Alistair Brightman

"We don't want to have to use genetic rescue in order to save the dingoes but the way we're going it's inevitable."

Ms Dean said urgent action needed to be taken otherwise "dingoes will go extinct".

"With only nine sightings on the western side (of Fraser Island) and seven on the eastern side, it's concerning," she said.

However, QPW said holiday makers' failure to heed warnings on Fraser Island was cause for concern, risking their own safety and future of the dwindling dingo population.

A Queensland Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman said visitors' failure to comply with advice had resulted in dingoes entering and "ripping into" tents.

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"During the holiday period there have still been a number of occasions where visitors have not been following dingo-safe advice," the spokeswoman said.

"These incidents have included feeding or encouraging dingoes, not securing food, rubbish or property and storing food in tents resulting in dingoes ripping into tents."

Despite there being no reports of high-risk or aggressive interactions between humans and dingoes over the 2017/2018 school holidays, 17 were reported throughout 2017.

From 2009 to 2016, 120 high-risk interactions were recorded.

DINGOES SEVERELY INBRED

PRELIMINARY data from extensive dingo research shows the population could be heavily inbred, according to geneticist Dr Kylie Cairns.

Severe inbreeding combined with a low population of the species was cause for concern due to the likelihood of purebreds becoming extinct.

Dr Cairns said in some of the research she conducted, she examined 170,000 genetic markers across the dingo genome and performed an analysis to look at inbreeding levels inland and on Fraser Island.

 

A dingo on the beach at Fraser Island. Photo Contributed
A dingo on the beach at Fraser Island. Photo Contributed Contributed

"There needs to be some sort of ongoing genetic monitoring program on the island as well as in general, building our basic knowledge of dingoes on the island," Dr Cairns said.

"How often they breed, how many pups they're having, whether there's any issues with reproduction - we need to know if there's any issues."

Dr Cairns said inbreeding had more of a damaging impact than realised.

<<READ MORE DINGO RELATED STORIES HERE>>

"It can cause a decrease in breeding success, particularly infertility, physical and other defects, smaller size, shorter life span and poor fitness," she said.

"It's the small population size, the inbreeding and people reporting there's not so many pups on the island which starts to shoot up red flags."

'DINGOES NEED TO BE FED'

WHEN brumbies were removed from Fraser Island and scraps were no longer thrown in the bush, dingoes lost nearly every major source of food on the island.

In the 1900s, about 200 wild horses lived on Fraser Island after being introduced in the 1800s.

In the 1980s, the horses were targeted for removal and in 2003, dozens were removed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hervey Bay MP Ted Sorensen has been vocal with his concerns surrounding the dingo population of Fraser Island and has raised the idea of "food stations" to assist with feeding.

 

The remaining brumbies on Fraser Island.
The remaining brumbies on Fraser Island. Contributed

He said feeding stations would help solve the food supply issue for dingoes as well as help with tourism opportunities on the World Heritage-listed island.

"Trialling the idea of a feeding station would provide an area where tourists can see the iconic Fraser Island dingo in a safe and secure environment rather than pursuing a dingo for a photo," Mr Sorensen said.

"Today, the modern tourist wants a wildlife encounter in a controlled environment.

"We have great opportunities on Fraser to present these opportunities while also supporting and protecting the Fraser Island dingo." Despite believing dingoes did, in fact, need to be fed, Butchulla elder Frances Gala said a feeding station was not the answer.

"They should leave the dingoes in their own area because if you put them in with one another, they'll end up fighting and kill each other," she said.

"They should put the food by their dens so they can stick with their packs."

The reality of the dwindling dingo population was heartbreaking for Mrs Gala, who had fond memories of dingoes greeting guests at the barge upon arrival at the island.

"The public needs to leave them be and follow the rules because how are else are they to survive?" she said.


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