Are Fraser Island Dingos Dying out
There is no available evidence that the Fraser Island dingo population is dying out. While it is difficult to simply count a population such as dingoes that are constantly moving around their territories in often-inaccessible terrain, several studies conducted concurrently, as part of a two-year population study, have provided an insight into the population dynamics of Fraser Island’s dingo population. This study suggests a current population of approximately 200 individuals roam across Fraser Island’s 166,000ha landmass.
The studies also indicate that dingo numbers vary depending on the seasons, numbers increase after breeding and subsequently decline due to natural attrition. Pack sizes—generally about 12 animals per pack—vary across seasons and years according to the amount of vacant territories and supply of natural food sources.
How does grids and fences affect Dingo’s on Fraser Island
Only 0.02% of Fraser Island is fenced off. The dingo-deterrent fences do not cut dingoes off from their natural food sources. Therefore Dingo’s is free to roam the Island un deterred.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service manages Fraser Island for recreation and wildlife/habitat conservation.
Twenty-five per cent of Fraser Island’s 166,000ha landmass is generally accessible to people. Some camping areas, townships and resorts have dingo-deterrent fencing (with grids for car access) around them for the safety of people and dingoes.
The dingo-deterrent fences were installed for the following reasons.
- A high proportion of dangerous and/or aggressive dingo incidents were occurring in and around these areas.
- The high concentration of people in these areas attracted dingoes due to the easy availability of food.
- There had been a long history of people feeding dingoes in townships.
- Fed dingoes that became habituated started displaying aggressive behaviour, particularly towards children who were present in higher numbers within townships and family camping areas.
- Dingo-deterrent fencing elsewhere on Fraser Island had been very effective in negating negative dingo-people interactions at these locations.
There have been very few reported instances of dingoes getting inside a fenced area. Of the few reports, investigations showed that dingoes usually got inside the fence through a pedestrian gate carelessly propped open by people.
Tourism and Dingo’s: How does it affect each Other.
Although Fraser Island welcomes approximately 350,000 tourists each year, the vast majority limit their visit to the most popular and iconic sites. These sites are very small areas compared to the large, undisturbed habitats available for the island’s wildlife to thrive. Dingoes can roam freely over all of Fraser Island except for a few small areas (equal to about 0.2% of the island) that have dingo deterrent fences and grids for the safety of people and dingoes.
All commercial tour operators are bound by the strict operating conditions of their permits and/or agreements to ensure sustainable tourism and environmental protection. They require a permit or agreement to conduct their activities under legislation such as the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and/or the Recreation Area Management Act 2006.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service makes all attempts to reduce negative people dingo interaction to protect people and conserve dingoes. If dingoes are left to be wild and are not fed or otherwise encouraged to come close, the chances of dingoes becoming dangerous and having to be humanely destroyed are reduced.
Dingo education is about safety for people and dingoes. All visitors and residents on the island are targeted with ‘Be dingo-safe!’ information. This is provided on signs, in brochures, as web content on the pre-visit education on the Fraser Island web page, and in short video clips designed for the backpacker and the four-wheel-drive hire vehicle audience. Focused education campaigns, timed around the major events in dingo ecology —mating, pupping and weaning, and whelping—remind commercial tour operators, residents and backpacker companies to continue to promote dingo-safe behavior to their clients, families and tenants. Once on the island, certain camping areas, depending on recent dingo activity, are visited by rangers to ensure people understand dingo safety guidelines.
Why are dingo’s so thin ?
Wild dingoes are naturally lean and fit. They live a very active life, running or trotting up to 40km a day patrolling their territories and hunting. In fact, from data gathered since 2001, Fraser Island’s adult dingoes have an average weight of around 18kg; higher than mainland dingoes (Corbett, L 2009, Audit (2009) of Fraser Island dingo management strategy: Supplement 2: Assessment of public submissions regarding dingo management on Fraser Island*). Thin-looking dingoes may be juveniles that haven’t developed good condition or are subordinate animals or what are called ‘scapegoat’ animals in the pack. These lower ranking animals are often denied access to food, even at times when there is plenty of it about. It is a way that dominant animals keep their ‘rule’ over the pack.
It is common that juvenile dingoes—6 to 7 months old—lose some weight immediately after leaving their dens or packs. They must now learn to hunt for their own food. Juveniles are generally seen from late summer to early autumn. They often still have black hair on their backs and tend to look gangly until they mature and develop their muscles. Some juveniles do not succeed and will die. Those that do well, can, within a matter of months, gain weight and be in good condition to take their place in a pack.
A photograph taken in October 2008 showing a very thin dingo had been seen in newspaper and web articles. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service knew the dingo as one the rangers had tagged as purple/yellow/yellow. Rangers continued monitoring to build up a profile of this animal.
The profile of the dingo tagged as purple/yellow/yellow—re-tagged as pink/pink/pink—shows how she gained good condition from December 2008 to September 2009 and has in fact had pups in 2010 and again in 2012.
Why are some of their ears tagged.
Placing ear tags onto individual dingoes on Fraser Island started in November 2002. Tags are based on a standard ear-tag system as used for sheep in the livestock industry. These tags have also been used for native species such as nailtail wallabies.
Standard tags are modified to feature a three-colour identification system. This three-colour system enables each animal to be allocated an individual colour code for ease of identification.
Ear tags were introduced as a management tool to help build profiles on individual dingoes. The tags clearly identify the dingo and whether it’s a male or female. Sightings and surveys of dingoes help to document their territories, membership in a pack and movements across the whole of Fraser Island. Each colour combination can be used twice as females are tagged in the right ear and males in the left ear.
Why is feeding dingoes a bad idea?
Dingoes have sharp teeth and strong jaws. Even a small bite (or nip) on a leg can leave a scar. Photos: Queensland Government
There is no need to feed dingoes. All available scientific data shows that the dingo population on Fraser Island is not starving. These dingoes are wild predatory animals that should not be confused with, or treated as, domestic pets.
Dingoes have bitten visitors, occasionally quite severely, and are capable of killing people. Feeding a dingo—even just once—has serious consequences for people and the dingo.
Dingoes that have lost their natural wariness of people (that is, become habituated) start to depend on hand-outs of food or scrounge for rubbish. Defending or fighting for their food can lead to aggression towards anyone. They learn quickly and may soon start to adults. Children and small teenagers are particularly vulnerable. In trying to take food or gain dominance, dingoes will bite and maul—in one such incident a small child was tragically killed. These aggressive dingoes must be humanely destroyed—sadly, as a result of the bad habits learnt from people.
The risk posed to people by dingoes has been reduced since the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service implemented the Fraser Island dingo management strategy in November 2001. A fully independent scientific review of this strategy was completed in December 2012.