Dingoes in the dock

Conservation of Australian dingoes depends on realistic attitudes

source: Adrian Franklin
New Scientist vol 213 no 2852, February 18 2012
starts p28, 2 pages long

The case of the baby who died in Ayers Rock, Australia, and whose jacket turned up in a dingo's den, is being reopened, and this could affect attitudes to conservation of dingoes. Many people believed dingoes incapable of killing babies, but few Australians know the animal, and little has been written on its natural history. It is classified as Canis lupus dingo, and reached Australia some 3,500 years ago from Asia, becoming feral and forming packs in Australia. It has both been seen as a native wild dog, and as a dog domesticated by Aboriginals. It is both capable of affection and co-operation, and is opportunistic when hungry, just as humans are. Aboriginals warn of risks from dingoes to babies and frail old people. Whites are more likely to see dingoes as victims of persecution. Dingoes on Fraser Island, Queensland, have become a tourist attraction. Advertising depicts them as wild, solitary and unthreatening. Attacks have occurred against humans, but they have been described as unnatural, and the dingoes culled. This unrealistic view of dingoes is unhelpful for their conservation. Dingoes' relationships with humans can be both symbiotic and predatory. They should be conserved as potentially dangerous animals with measures to keep them separate from humans.