Could dingoes follow the Tasmanian tiger to extinction?
The persecution of dingoes has reduced their distribution and could accelerate the demise of this species, says Australia’s peak professional ecological body, the Ecological Society of Australia.
‘Native dingoes are classified as a pest across much of Australia, and so are persecuted for similar reasons to what happened to the now extinct Tasmanian tiger,’ said Dr Aaron Greenville, lead author of the Ecological Society of Australia’s ‘Hot Topic’ published today.
‘Dingo persecution has reduced the species’ distribution and disrupts its social structure, potentially accelerating the demise of this species through cross-breeding with feral domestic dogs.’
Dr Greenville said that Australia’s top predators like the dingo are important for maintaining diversity. ‘The dingo is mainland Australia’s only remaining land-based, large-bodied top predator. Its loss or suppression could lead to additional extinctions through the food chain, and an increase of feral animals such as cats and foxes that threaten native wildlife.’
As well as killing and competing with cats and foxes, dingoes can control populations of overabundant kangaroos, feral goats, and feral pigs. ‘Importantly, dingoes can limit kangaroo numbers during droughts,’ said Dr Greenville. ‘This reduces grazing pressure on grasslands, improves soil nutrient levels and can increase economic benefits to farmers.’
He said that there are alternatives to dingo fences or poisoning, trapping and shooting. ‘Livestock guardian dogs can protect stock from dingoes, and are cost effective and more humane,’ he said. ‘In fact, current methods to control dingoes have led to increased, not decreased, livestock loss in some areas.’
The Hot Topic, ‘Demise of the dingo’ was published by the Ecological Society of Australia today at https://www.ecolsoc.org.au/hot-topics/demise-dingo-0.
A dingo killed and left on a pole in 2013 (photo by Aaron Greenville)