Demise of the dingo

Demise of the dingo

Hot Topics in Ecology

Demise of the dingo

Aaron Greenville and A. Prof. Glenda Wardle, Desert Ecology Research Group, University of Sydney.
Dingo – killed and left on pole in 2013 (left) Thylacine last seen in wild in 1932 after five decades of lethal control (right). Dingo photograph by Aaron Greenville, thylacine photo taken ~1869, photographer unknown.

Because it threatens livestock, the native dingo Canis dingo is classified as a pest species. Barrier fencing and lethal methods are used to control the dingo, which is one of the few remaining mammalian top predators in Australia. Dingo management therefore parallels persecution of the Tasmanian tiger: a top-predator that was hunted for its alleged impact on livestock. Dingo persecution has reduced the species' distribution and disrupts its social structure, potentially accelerating the demise of this species through hybridisation with feral dogs. Whatever the genetic intermixing, it is clear that for over 4000 years dingoes have played a functional role in the Australian landscape. Top predators are now understood to be ecologically important in maintaining diversity. The loss or suppression of top predators can lead to additional extinctions through the food chain, and an increase of cats and foxes that negatively impact native wildlife in Australia. A review of the literature on the role of the dingo in the Australian environment identified the following key points:

1. Dingoes kill and compete with cats and foxes, and alter the foraging behaviour of feral cats. This suppression of smaller predators can have net positive benefits for populations of threatened species.

2. Dingoes can control populations of herbivores. Kangaroo numbers increase with rainfall and, when present, dingoes limit their population through predation. This reduces grazing pressure on grasslands.

3. Lethal control of dingoes can disrupt the social structure of packs that would otherwise limit dispersal, hybridisation and attacks on stock.

4. Alternatives to lethal control and the dingo fence exist. For example, livestock guardian dogs can protect stock from dingo predation. This alternative is cost effective as it will provide a return on investment in 1 to 3 years.

Hot Topic Lead Author: 
Name: Mr Aaron Greenville
Email: aaron.greenville@sydney.edu.au
Phone: 02 9351 8577

Name: A. Prof. Glenda Wardle
Email: glenda.wardle@sydney.edu.au
Phone: 02 9351 7113

Date approved: 
Saturday, August 16, 2014 - 05:44
ID Title Location Type
7049 Corbett L. (2001) The conservation status of the dingo Canis lupus dingo in Australia, with particular reference to New South Wales: threats to pure dingoes and potential solutions. In: A Symposium on the Dingo. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales Australia-wide correlational with no pre-determined gradient or contrast,
6722 Wallach A.D, Murray B.R and O’Neill A.J.(2009). Can threatened species survive wherethe top predator is absent? Biological Conservation 142, 43-52. Flinders Ranges, Ferries McDonald CP, Bakara CP and Innes NP. correlation with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
6698 Wallach A.D, Murray B.R and O’Neill A.J.(2009). Can threatened species survive wherethe top predator is absent? Biological Conservation 142, 43-52. Flinders Ranges, Ferries McDonald CP, Bakara CP and Innes NP. correlation with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
6695 Wallach A.D, Murray B.R and O’Neill A.J.(2009). Can threatened species survive wherethe top predator is absent? Biological Conservation 142, 43-52. Flinders Ranges, Ferries McDonald CP, Bakara CP and Innes NP. correlation with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
6658 Letnic M., Crowther M. S. & Koch F. (2009) Does a top-predator provide an endangered rodent with refuge from an invasive mesopredator? Anim. Conserv. 12, 302-12. Strzelecki Desert Manipulative experiment
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6637 Letnic M., Greenville A., Denny E., Dickman C. R., Tischler M., Gordon C. & Koch F. (2011) Does a top predator suppress the abundance of an invasive mesopredator at a continental scale? Global Ecology and Biogeography 20, 343-53. Qld, WA and Pre-existing contrasts
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6639 Letnic M., Koch F., Gordon C., Crowther M. S. & Dickman C. R. (2009) Keystone effects of an alien top-predator stem extinctions of native mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276, 3249-56. Strzelecki Desert Manipulative experiment
6640 Letnic M., Ritchie E. G. & Dickman C. R. (2012) Top predators as biodiversity regulators: the dingo Canis lupus dingo as a case study. Biological Reviews 87, 390-413. Australia wide review paper
6641 Moseby K. E., Neilly H., Read J. L. & Crisp H. A. (2012) Interactions between a top order predator and exotic mesopredators in the Australian rangelands. International Journal of Ecology 2012. Roxby Downs, SA Manipulative experiment
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6646 Wang Y. & Fisher D. O. (2012) Dingoes affect activity of feral cats, but do not exclude them from the habitat of an endangered macropod. Wildlife Research 39, 611-20. Taunton National Park(11 626 ha) in central Queensland Correlational with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
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6649 Allen B. L., Fleming P. J. S., Allen L. R., Engeman R. M., Ballard G. & Leung L. K. P. (2013) As clear as mud: A critical review of evidence for the ecological roles of Australian dingoes. Biological Conservation 159, 158-74. Australia -wide Review paper