Last howl of the dingo: the legislative, ecological and practical issues arising from the kill-or-conserve dilemma
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C. R. Dickman, Daniel Lunney, 2001. "Last howl of the dingo: the legislative, ecological and practical issues arising from the kill-or-conserve dilemma", A Symposium on the Dingo, C. R. Dickman, Daniel Lunney
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There is little doubt that the dingo is the most reviled of all Australian mammals. Former dingo trapper Sid Wright emphasised the enmity of people towards the dingo, but argued that this “wild, magnificent creature” should be conserved in our national parks and reserves. It is the only native mammal not protected in NSW by the State's fauna legislation yet, in a bizarre twist, it is currently under consideration by an independent scientific committee for listing as a vulnerable species in NSW. This Symposium on the Dingo was convened to explore the kill-or-conserve dilemma. Stock protection remains a primary matter of rural concern today, and this is a concern for all wild dogs and not just dingoes, although no distinction can be made between them in control programs because it is not possible to separate them in the bush. Thus there is no method of selectively controlling wild dogs. As journalist Peter Austin explained to the readers of The Land: “The problem is not made any easier for the National Parks and Wildlife Service by the fact that it is required on one hand to protect dingoes on its lands as a native species, while meeting its obligation under the recently amended Rural Lands Protection Act to control wild dogs (dingoes included) that pose a threat to domestic stock”. Recent research by geneticist Alan Wilton gave rise to his unambiguous position: “The dingo in the wild is endangered due to hybridization with domestic dogs”. This confirms earlier work by Laurie Corbett and Alan Newsome. The NSW NPWS recognises that “wild dogs, including dingoes, cause substantial livestock losses and there is an expectation by rural communities that damage by these animals be minimised … However, as the dingo is a native animal, there is a public expectation that dingoes should be conserved”. The Service, as the leading wildlife conservation agency in NSW, accepts this responsibility as spelt out in its policy on Wild Dogs. One conservation option being negotiated is the establishment of dingo management areas, as presented in an interdepartmental joint submission to the NSW Parliament in a “Report on the Regulatory Controls Relating to Dingoes”. However, the management of dingoes at the interface of public lands and grazing properties will remain a contentious issue because of the need to balance the conflicting objectives of protecting dingoes while meeting the obligations of public land managers under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1998. Under the changes, the Crown is bound to control pest animals declared through Pest Animal Control Orders “to the extent necessary to minimise the risk of the pest causing damage on any land”. Management dilemmas can paralyse the decision-making process for land and wildlife managers, so this paper aims to advance the debate by examining matters of great concern to the wildlife manager and to the land manager: respectively, they are scientific evidence for genetic hybridisation of the dingo, and innovative management options. This paper suggests areas of compromise and reiterates Alan Newsome's conclusion that “there are no simple answers, and sometimes no easy compromises between the two imperatives, to eradicate and to conserve”.