|Dingo catching a fox|
Australia has the one of the worst extinction records in the modern era. 1756 species of animals are now listed as threatened, of these 176 are critically endangered, 671 endangered and a further 806 vulnerable. Poisons such as compound 1080 and strychnine, trapping, shooting and deliberate introductions of feral animals (cane toad, rabbit, european rat, european mouse, cat, fox, pigs, etc.) have all had a huge impact.
Bounties were on the Wedge-tailed eagle. Over 150,000 bounties were paid on the Wedge-tailed eagle in WA alone as it was believed to prey on livestock.
Many native animals have also been targeted through the farming industry:
- Tasmanian tigers were deliberately made extinct because it was believed they killed sheep, although modern research has proved this not possible due to a weak jaw structure.
"In 1886 in the Tasmanian House of Assembly John Lyne insisted that Tasmania’s sheep industry was in peril due to the Tasmanian tiger. At one stage he claimed that more sheep were being killed by the animal than there were actual sheep in Tasmania. Fur trappers added to the hyperbole insisting tigers were stealing from their traps. Sheep hustlers agreed, seeing it as a way to disguise their treachery. From 1880 to 1910 a government bounty was slapped on the animal. Over 2000 thylacines were hunted down and killed." ABC - Shadows in the Scrub
- Tasmanian devils (IUCN Endangered) were killed in huge numbers, again due to a belief they killed sheep. Tasmanian devils are in fact scavengers and generally only feed on carcasses. Some people still classify them a pest as they can eat poultry. However, Tasmanian devils are now protected by law.
- Wedge-tailed eagles were nearly made extinct, but are now protected.
- Wombats (one species Critically Endangered)
- Bilbies (IUCN Vulnerable/IUCN Extinct). Horses of early settlers broke their legs when they stepped on Bilby burrows. Accordingly bilbies were targeted and bounties offeredd.
- Kangaroos, potoroos, wallabies killed by the millions to protect grain crops
- Trees cleared resulting in loss of habitat
- Dingoes (IUCN Vulnerable) targeted for supposedly killing sheep
- Quolls (IUCN Near-Threatened/Endangered) for being a "pest to poultry"
|Greater Bilby and Spotted Quoll||
Tasmanian Devil and Tiger
If Australia is to retain any wildlife, there has to be a way forward that protects both our wildlife and farming interests, whilst targeting introduced pests. The survival of the dingo is paramount to any such program.
"Our research has demonstrated that dingoes have a profound influence on ecosystem structure. Dingoes suppress mesopredators (foxes and cats) and herbivores (rabbits, kangaroos, emus, goats and donkeys), which enables small mammals (such as hopping mice, dunnarts and kowaris) to increase in abundance. Where predator control is relaxed vegetation cover and diversity also increase. The ecological influence of dingoes is so important in fact, that many native species can only persist where dingoes are present. Because dingoes (like other wolves) are socially complex, they are particularly sensitive to lethal control. Dingoes are deeply social and intelligent beings. They care for each other, hunt together, maintain territories and traditions, and their ecological influence is tightly linked with their pack structure. To recover Australia’s wilderness, predator-control practices must be eliminated entirely, and dingoes afforded full protection." - Reviving Ecological Functioning with Dingo Restoration, James Cook University.
Dingoes help control foxes and feral pigs resulting in less deaths of livestock and of native animals. They control feral cats - again helping native animals alongside poultry farmers. When dingo packs are left hierarchally intact, they kill domestic dogs gone feral - a huge benefit to farmers. They control rabbits, meaning better grazing and more feed. They keep roo numbers in check, again, more pasture feed. The survival of the Dingo is a win-win for everyone.
"Lethal control [killing dingoes] fractures dingo social structure and leads to bottom-up driven increases in invasive mesopredators and herbivores. Where control is relaxed, dingoes re-establish top–down regulation of ecosystems, allowing for the recovery of biodiversity and productivity." - Wallach et al (2010).
Fat Tailed Dunnart
Photo: Alan Couch
"Studies by Dr. Mike Letnic from the University of New South Wales showed that populations of dunnarts and native rodents thrive in the presence of dingoes" - Arid Recovery
The Australian eco-system has evolved with dingoes. It needs dingoes and the smaller mammals it protects. This protection results from the Dingo controlling foxes, pigs, cats, rabbits, feral once-domestic dogs, etc. A recent study by Monash University showed:
"The rapid loss of foraging animals such as bilbies, bandicoots and potoroos since the European colonisation of Australia has been linked to ecosystem decline, owing to the role they play in keeping land healthy.... digging mammals play a key role in increasing nutrient turnover and water infiltration in soil, as well as dispersing seeds.
Animals such as wombats, which dig holes to live in, are credited with breaking up hard soil and recycling organic material, such as fallen leaves, through the earth.
These mammals effectively plough furrows in the ground for seeds to fall into, increasing the chance that the seeds will become healthy plants. They are also credited with reducing fire risks by taking litter and debris underground with them.... When feral pigs dig up soil, they destroy large habitats, rather than the neat, discreet foraging of these other mammals... The diggings of animals like rabbits involve more weeds and changing the dynamics of ecosystems in ways that aren't beneficial." - The Guardian, 2013-09-24.
One of the world's rarest mammals. It was actually considered extinct for 120 years. Trapping and killing by early settlers are blamed for their near-demise.
In 2008, a 37km2 fenced off "dingo paddock" was created on Stuart Creek Pastoral station (near Roxby Downs, South Australia). Two wild dingoes, seven wild foxes and six feral cats were released into the area, with an additional 2 feral cats already present. All seven foxes were dead within 17 days. In one case, scrape marks and diggings on a sand dune around a foxes' warren indicated the dingoes flushed the foxes out before killing them.
"Dingoes typically stayed with fox and cat carcasses for several hours after death and/or returned several times in ensuing days." - Moseby et al. (2012).
At least 5 of the cats were killed by dingoes. Cat number 6 was found in a wedge-tailed eagle's nest and the remaining two cats were found between 350m and 500m away from the dingoes at their time of death. The cause of death of these last cats is unknown but the dingoes were probably responsible. Of interest is that the cats already present in the area survived for a longer period of time than the more recently introduced cats.
Another study, in 2013, conducted by researchers from three NSW universities found that removing dingoes allowed fox numbers to increase. This had a dramatic impact on populations of small marsupials and rodents, e.g. bandicoots and hopping mice. In further hardship to these small animals, the removal of dingoes caused kangaroo numbers to increase to unsustainable levels, thereby resulting in a reduction of forest understory. This understory would normally provide shelter to numerous native animals.
- 2014-06-13 Dingos the new weapon in pest control
- 2014-03-26 Australia should enlist dingoes to control invasive species
- 2014-03-13 A balanced ecosystem needs apex predators
- 2013-09-25 Loss of digging mammals linked to ecosystem decline
- 2013-09-19 Frozen zoo vital for species' future
- 2013-09-16 ABC - Shadows in the Scrub
- 2013-09-09 Dingoes cleared of mainland extinctions
- 2013-09-05 Tassie academic wins Eureka Prize for study into how dingoes help biodiversity
- 2013-05 Ecologically functional landscapes and the role of dingoes as trophic regulators in south-eastern Australia and other habitat
- 2012-09-27 Dingo secures a feral cat for dinner
- 2012-05-18 Can Australia afford the dingo fence?
- 2012 Interactions between a Top Order Predator and Exotic Mesopredators in the Australian Rangelands
- 2012-01-19 Browse Bilby Review
Section 2.6 "the presence of dingoes may also favour Bilby survival.... the apparent absence of foxes is likely to be related to an apparent healthy population of dingoes."
- 2011-09-01 Tasmanian tiger too weak to hunt sheep
- 2010-06-10 Wallach et al (2010) Predator control promotes invasive dominated ecological states
- 2007-07-11 Fox on the run as dingo's day dawns
- Arid Recover News - http://www.aridrecovery.org.au/BlogRetrieve.aspx?BlogID=2552
- Macrotis lagotis - Greater Bilby
“The presence of the Greater Bilby is strongly associated with substrate type, mean annual rainfall, and the presence of Dingoes in the area (Southgate et al. 2007).”