Despite prominent signage, tourists continue to feed dingoes in National Parks and World Heritage Areas, endangering themselves and the animals.
Photo: Chris Johnson
September 13, 2001
Australia's Ginger Dog
Since arriving in Darwin, we have been delighted to have sighted Australia's wild dog in its natural environment.
The dingo is a primitive subspecies of the grey wolf and evolved in Asia before arriving in Australia with seafarers about 4,000 years ago. They spread across the mainland where they often lived in close association with Aborigines who arrived many millennia earlier and may have kept them as pets that assisted them in hunting.
Since the arrival of Europeans, Australia's ginger dog, has endured a torrid history that continues today. It has been hailed as both a proud symbol of Australian outback fauna and a much-despised pest by some landowners, who have long believed "the only good dingo is a dead dingo". After some insight into the lives of these wild dogs, it becomes clear that perhaps they are the victims of much negative media hype and that their fearsome reputation is largely undeserved. At the very least, we humans must consider taking some responsibility.
The name, dingo, made headlines around the world when one took a baby from a campsite at Ayers Rock (Uluru) over ten years ago. The dog's infamy recently recaptured the media spotlight again when a young boy was tragically attacked at Fraser Island. As a consequence, several animals were culled.
Dingoes are scavengers and opportunists who commonly prey on kangaroos, wallabies, rabbits, rodents and water birds. Since the early days of settlement, the dingo has harassed sheep and cattle, usually during periods when native prey was scarce due to human disturbance of habitats.
With increasing populations and a seemingly endless urban sprawl and appetite for more land and resources, we must examine our relationship with the wild animals that live in these environments. Today, the dingo is under threat of extinction from not only the pressures of human activities but, ironically, from other dogs. In the more settled areas of Australia and increasingly the outback, there is continued interbreeding with the domestic dog.
The World Heritage status given to Fraser Island was primarily due to the fact that it contains one of the only known remaining strains of pure dingo. It survives in numbers that are sufficient to maintain a viable population, which does not succumb to the interbreeding of other populations. However, the future of these endangered animals is under threat. With the continuing growth in popularity of World Heritage sites such as Fraser Island and other wilderness areas where these animals are found, the dingo is seen as an increasing threat to tourists. Despite numerous warning signs never to feed dingoes or encourage their attention, people continue to do so. This behavior ultimately threatens the safety of both humans and the natural treasures for which these areas are known.
This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in Australia.
Log by Genevieve Johnson