Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The danger of dingoes in the Grampians

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Beverley McArthur MP, Member for Western Victoria Region, Media Release, 27 April 2021.

There is increasing anxiety around the potential for dingoes to be re-introduced into the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park in Victoria’s west.

The decision is currently in the hands of the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio after submissions to a draft Grampians Management Plan closed in January.

Fraser Island dingo
Fraser Island dingo. Image by TheOtherKev from Pixabay

Member for Western Victoria, Bev McArthur, said farmers are exceedingly concerned about the dingo plan, given another dingo attack on a person on Queensland’s Fraser Island just one week ago.

“The Draft Plan gave farmers no reason to feel comfortable about the safety of their livestock, or indeed people for that matter,” Mrs McArthur said.

“There are two predominant incomes in the Grampians region – farming and tourism – and this one proposal manages to threaten both of them.

“Even just the fear of attack from introduced dingoes could undermine the Grampians tourism industry despite the ongoing investment in tourism infrastructure.”

“Why spend $30 million on the Grampians Peaks Trail, and allow camping in the Park, if you overlay it with the threat of dingo attacks on visitors?” 

The draft plan highlights the importance of dingoes to the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the National Park and argues dingoes would help manage the ‘overabundant’ kangaroos and wallabies and suppress foxes and feral cat populations.

In tandem, certain submissions to the ongoing Environment and Planning Committee’s Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria are pursuing dingo re-introduction across the state.

The Australian Dingo Foundation (ADF) argues that ‘dingo extermination is also counter-productive for farmers’ because unchecked numbers of animals such as kangaroos compete for grazing land with livestock.

However, the ADF also admits that the ‘majority of sheep producers, 93 per cent, are located in areas (such as the western district) where dingoes have long been removed from the landscape’.

“And yet the Gariwerd proposal is exactly about putting dingoes right back into Australia’s sheep production heartland,” Mrs McArthur said.

“It is bizarre and reckless in the extreme.”

Wild dog shooters are compromised by the uncertainty of what constitutes a wild dog. Agriculture Victoria admits it is “difficult to distinguish [wild dogs] from pure dingoes’.

“So when is a wild dog a dingo?

“How would a shooter know if a dog is a dingo or a feral? It’s not like they can do a DNA test on the spot.

“It is argued that only one percent of dingo DNA is required to claim ‘dingo status’ – effectively rendering ‘dingo protection’ to nearly every wild dog in the state.

“Even the ADF’s own work shows only 1.5 per cent of the state’s wild dogs are feral, meaning 98.5 are dingoes, that is dingoes with one percent dingo DNA.

“As a member of the Ecosystem Decline Inquiry, the Animal Justice Party’s Andy Meddick, made it clear that he regards the term `wild dogs’ as a ‘euphemism for dingoes’.

“But it should be remembered that Mr Meddick’s entire agenda is the eradication of animals farmed for food and fibre. Plant based farming is the only form of agriculture acceptable to the Animal Justice Party. 

“Electric fencing, drone drops of dingo-repelling pheromones and Maremma dogs won’t be enough to save the tens of thousands of dollars-worth of livestock that can be cruelly killed in one night by a wild dog or dingo.

“They leave a carcass-carnage behind and mental anguish for farmers dealing with the devastation which can spread across kilometres of farmland in one hit.”

A submission to the Draft Plan from nationally-recognised Victoria Valley merino sheep farmers, John and Rhonda Crawford, said re-introduced dingoes will not stay in the national park.

Their submission states that: “80 per cent of the kangaroos live on the fringes of the national park; adjacent to farms…the dingoes will move in that direction, looking for prey to eat and they will discover livestock are easy to catch and maim and kill.”

They also highlight that electric fences must be turned off on days of Total Fire Ban and the number of farmers walking off their properties due to dingo predation: “Especially in Queensland, where farmers have walked off their farms, not only because of droughts and floods, but because dingoes have made it unviable to farm livestock…”

Mrs McArthur said native animal species will be threatened by dingoes, despite the argument that dingoes will largely hunt feral animals.

“Dingo breeder for 40 years, John Higgins, advises that koalas will be threatened, as will the critically endangered brush-tailed rock-wallaby, itself only recently re-introduced to the Grampians.

“At what cost would dingoes be re-introduced?

“And who is going to compensate farmers or Park visitors when it all goes wrong?”

“None of this makes any sense and has any number of unintended consequences because it has not been properly thought through”, Mrs McArthur concluded. 

Related story: Dingoes in the Grampians – response from the Australian Dingo Foundation

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