Protect Dingoes in the Northern Territory

Protect Dingoes in the Northern Territory

THE ISSUE

There is widespread killing of dingoes pastoral leases in the NT with broad-scale 1080 poisoning, as well as trapping and shooting.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Dingoes are estimated to have arrived in Australia between 4,000 and 18,000 years ago (1).  Regardless of the exact timing of their arrival dingoes are considered to be a native species in the NT (2).

The Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1976) “affords the dingo full legal protection, making it an offence to possess, interfere with, or kill dingoes unless authorised to do so” (2).

If there is a lack of other ...

THE ISSUE

There is widespread killing of dingoes pastoral leases in the NT with broad-scale 1080 poisoning, as well as trapping and shooting.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Dingoes are estimated to have arrived in Australia between 4,000 and 18,000 years ago (1).  Regardless of the exact timing of their arrival dingoes are considered to be a native species in the NT (2).

The Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1976) “affords the dingo full legal protection, making it an offence to possess, interfere with, or kill dingoes unless authorised to do so” (2).

If there is a lack of other prey, dingoes may prey upon cattle (18).   The NT government routinely authorises pastoral land managers and ‘feral animal controllers’ to kill dingoes on pastoral properties with a Permit to Take or Interfere with Protected Wildlife.  This permit is issued automatically with an approved 1080 Pest Animal Management Authorisation (8).

1080 (sodium fluoroacetate), a schedule 7 poison, is used on most pastoral properties in the NT (18).  1080 is lethal for dingoes even in very small doses. Poisoning is recognised as causing severe suffering (21). Management of 1080 in the NT has been significantly deregulated in the past decade (24,25).)

WHY THIS ISSUE IS A CONCERN

Cultural importance

Aboriginal communities and dingoes have a complex, symbiotic relationship that crosses physical and spiritual realms (1).

"Dingoes are important in our Dreaming. Out in the bush dingoes helped us hunt and find water… Dingoes can live without people…They can smell water and hunt very well. They are an important part of keeping country healthy." (3)

Dingo stories, songs and dances traverse the continent (1). 

The cultural significance of dingoes has extensive implications.  To break traditional law in relation to dingoes can create great sadness, sickness and unrest (9).

Conservation value

In Australia the term ‘wild dog’ is used to describe dingoes, feral domestic dogs as well as hybrids of these.

At least 90 to 99% of ‘wild dogs’ in the NT are purebred dingoes (10,18)

The purity of the Northern Territory dingo population is of important national conservation value (11).

Environmental impact

As apex predators’ dingoes influence the abundance of many species of plants and animals across multiple levels within ecosystems.  Dingoes suppress feral predators (cats and foxes) through direct predation and indirect interference (cats and foxes avoid them), as a result a healthy Dingo population is good for small to medium-sized mammals, reptiles and birds.  Dingoes also regulate numbers of feral herbivores like rabbits (5,6).  The impact of dingoes has been shown to have a wide range of cascading effects on plants (7).

Lethal control of dingoes does not reduce cattle mortality in the NT

The paper “Lethal control reduces the relative abundance of dingoes but not cattle production impacts” (13) has just been published.  The paper, which was co-authored by the NT Government’s Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security’s (DEPWS) Director of Wildlife Use and Pest Animals, reports that single baiting of 1080 reduces numbers of dingoes in the short-term on cattle stations but does not reduce incidences of cattle loss. The authors conclude: 

“These results add to the growing body of consistent evidence that dingo control practices, as currently conducted, yield little benefit to beef producers in arid or semiarid environments most of the time”. 

And call for:

“Alternative strategies and practices to reduce dingo mauling and predation impacts to be investigated using replicated and controlled field studies.”

The findings are consistent with many recent studies (14-17) which show that predator friendly farming substantially benefits cattle production in pastoral areas because stable dingo populations:

1.      Limit their own breeding

“Dingoes have a particularly tight pack structure. Unlike domestic dogs they only breed once a year, having litters of three to five pups. It is usually only the dominant male and female that will breed. If a subordinate female does become pregnant, the dominant female will usually kill the pups. The result is only three to five live pups per year from a pack of 10-15 dingoes.” (9)

2.      Do not engage in hyper-predation, which is associated with the breakdown of territory and pack structure

3.      Keep populations of kangaroos and other wild herbivores well below densities they would otherwise reach

Information / Action Request (what we would like done / possible solutions)

The NT Government needs to: cease facilitating the killing of dingoes on pastoral properties; shift responsibility for any permits related to wild dog control on pastoral lands from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT) back to the Department of Parks, Environment and Water Security (DEPWS), which is responsible for wildlife protection; and, promote and facilitate animal husbandry practices that are best practice and evidence based.

Specific recommendations

 1.      Revoke and cease to issue Permits to Take Protected Wildlife to pastoral land managers and private feral animal controllers.

3.      Update government resources and education to reflect evidence based, best practice information on how pastoralists can reduce calf losses in ways that, unlike lethal dingo control, are effective, less damaging to ecosystem biodiversity and do not threaten a protected native species.

4.      Encourage a broader debate about the scale and extent of 1080 use for all purposes, including conservation.   This mode of killing is cruel and difficult to target to a single species or animal.  (For a discussion on this and lethal control as a land management practice see Wallach et al 201822 and on use of 1080 in conservation see https://invasives.org.au/publications/1080-a-weighty-ethical-issue/.)

REFERENCES (please note - the evidence used in this case card is just an introduction.  There is A LOT more out there!) 

1.      Philip, Justine. (2017).  THE CULTURAL HISTORY OF THE DINGO  https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2017/08/cultural-history-of-the-dingo/ 

2.      NT Government TERRITORY PARKS AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION ACT 1976 https://legislation.nt.gov.au/en/Legislation/TERRITORY-PARKS-AND-WILDLIFE-CONSERVATION-ACT-1976 

3.      Philip, Justine. (2020). THE WATERFINDERS. A cultural history of the Australian dingo. Australian Zoologist. 10.7882/AZ.2020.034 

4.      Brooks, David. & Dobson, Shawn. (2013). A TOWN LIKE MPARNTWE: A GUIDE TO THE DREAMING TRACKS AND SITES OF ALICE SPRINGS. Alice Springs, NT: Jukurrpa Books 

5.      T. Schroeder, M. M. Lewis, A. D. Kilpatrick, and K. E. Moseby (2015) DINGO INTERACTIONS WITH EXOTIC MESOPREDATORS: SPATIOTEMPORAL DYNAMICS IN AN AUSTRALIAN ARID-ZONE STUDY, Wildlife Research 42(6), 529-539, (9 November 2015). https://doi.org/10.1071/WR15104 

6.      Newsome, T. Greenville, A. Ćirović, D. et al. (2017) TOP PREDATORS CONSTRAIN MESOPREDATOR DISTRIBUTIONS. Nature Communications 8, 15469. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms15469

7.      Fisher, Adrian. Mills, Charlotte. Lyons, Mitchell. Cornwell, William. Letnic, Mike (2021) REMOTE SENSING OF TROPHIC CASCADES: MULTI‐TEMPORAL LANDSAT IMAGERY REVEALS VEGETATION CHANGE DRIVEN BY THE REMOVAL OF AN APEX PREDATOR. Landscape Ecol 36, 1341–1358. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-021-01206-w

8.      NT Government CONTROLLING WILD DOGS AND PEST ANIMALS WITH 1080 POISON https://nt.gov.au/industry/agriculture/farm-management/controlling-pest-animals-wild-dogs-with-1080-poison

9.      Phelan, Samantha (2007) CONDUCTING DOG HEALTH PROGRAMS IN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES: A VETERINARY GUIDE https://mk0amrricqek1rx8x5cc.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Conducting_dog_health_programs_june-08.pdf

10.    Cairns, Kylie & Crowther, Mathew & Nesbitt, Bradley & Letnic, Mike. (2021). THE MYTH OF WILD DOGS IN AUSTRALIA: ARE THERE ANY OUT THERE?. AUSTRALIAN MAMMALOGY. 10.1071/AM20055. https://www.publish.csiro.au/AM/AM20055

11.    Australian Government, Department of Environment 2010 NOMINATION – CANIS LUPUS SSP. DINGO https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/pages/a7465fc2-2fa1-4de4-b562-4eb56012296d/files/nomination-canis-lupus.pdf

 12.    NT Government (November 2020) DIRECTIONS FOR USE OF 1080 FOR WILD DOG CONTROL https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/262751/directions-for-use-of-1080-for-wild-dog-control.pdf

13.    Edwards Glenn P., Eldridge Stephen R., Shakeshaft Bernie J., Nano Teresa (2021) LETHAL CONTROL REDUCES THE RELATIVE ABUNDANCE OF DINGOES BUT NOT CATTLE PRODUCTION IMPACTS. Wildlife Research https://doi.org/10.1071/WR20076 

14.    Prowse, T.A.A., Johnson, C.N., Cassey, P., Bradshaw, C.J.A. and Brook, B.W. (2015), ECOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC BENEFITS TO CATTLE RANGELANDS OF RESTORING AN APEX PREDATOR. J Appl Ecol, 52: 455-466. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12378

 

15.    Wallach, Arian (2011) REVIVING ECOLOGICAL FUNCTIONING WITH DINGO RESTORATION https://www.academia.edu/2069055/Reviving_Ecological_Functioning_with_Dingo_Restoration

16.    Johnson, Chris & Wallach, Arian. (2016). THE VIRTUOUS CIRCLE: PREDATOR-FRIENDLY FARMING AND ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION IN AUSTRALIA. RESTORATION ECOLOGY. 24. 10.1111/rec.12396.

 17.    Brink Henry, Purcell Brad V., Letnic Mike, Webster Hugh S., Appleby Robert G., Jordan Neil R. (2019) PETS AND PESTS: A REVIEW OF THE CONTRASTING ECONOMICS AND FORTUNES OF DINGOES AND DOMESTIC DOGS IN AUSTRALIA, AND A PROPOSED NEW FUNDING SCHEME FOR NON-LETHAL DINGO MANAGEMENT. Wildlife Research 46, 365-377. https://doi.org/10.1071/WR19030

 18.    NT Government WILDDOG https://nt.gov.au/environment/animals/feral-animals/wild-dog

19.     Mobbs, Jay-Anna LANDHOLDERS FOR DINGOES ENCOURAGES GRAZIERS TO KEEP DINGOES ON PROPERTIES Katherine Times June 24 https://www.katherinetimes.com.au/story/7311754/from-number-one-enemy-to-farming-tool-how-dingoes-help-graziers/

 20.    LANDHOLDERS FOR DINGOES https://landholdersfordingoes.org/

 21.    RSPCA WHAT IS THE RSPCA’S VIEW ON USING 1080 FOR PEST ANIMAL CONTROL? https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-is-the-rspcas-view-on- using-1080-for-pest-animal-control/ 

22.    Wallach, Arian & Bekoff, Marc & Batavia, Chelsea & Nelson, Michael & Ramp, Daniel. (2018). Summoning compassion to address the challenges of conservation. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324801356_Summoning_compassion_to_address_the_challenges_of_conservation

 23.    Arian D. Wallach, Daniel Ramp, Adam J. O’Neill, CATTLE MORTALITY ON A PREDATOR-FRIENDLY STATION IN CENTRAL AUSTRALIA, Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 98, Issue 1, 8 February 2017, Pages 45–52, https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyw156

 24.    Farm Online NT DEPT ACCESS POINT FOR 1080 PERMITS  12 Sept 2012, https://www.farmonline.com.au/story/3602080/nt-dept-access-point-for-1080-permits/

 25.    Curtain, Carl WILD DOG 1080 BAITING REGULATIONS RELAXED FOR NORTHERN TERRITORY CATTLE PRODUCERS STRUGGLING WITH CALF ATTACKS 31 December 2015 https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2015-12-31/wild-dog-1080-baiting-regulations-relaxed-for-nt-cattlemen/7061808?nw=0. ABC News Rural

Image - Getty Images

 

 

 

 

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