Dingoes, which were once present across Australia, are known to prey upon kangaroos, emus and feral goats and it’s thought they also deter foxes and feral cats.
Photograph: AAP/Supplied by Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre
by Oliver Milma
Australia’s lengthy “dingo fence” should be altered to allow dingoes into a national park to test whether they can help reverse the precipitous decline of native wildlife, a group of conservation experts has recommended.
The bold experiment would involve remodelling the dingo-proof fence that stretches from eastern Queensland to the South Australian coastline. At more than 5,500km long, the barrier, originally constructed in the 1880s to keep out rabbits, is the longest fence in the world.
Altering the fence’s boundary would enable dingoes to enter the Sturt national park in New South Wales, allowing scientists to assess whether dingoes, long reviled by many people as dangerous to livestock and even humans, could in fact act as saviours for threatened native animals.
Dingoes are known to prey upon kangaroos, emus and feral goats and it’s thought they also deter foxes and feral cats – the two introduced predators blamed for causing massive declines in animals such as bilbies, bandicoots and bettongs across Australia.
But while dingoes were once present across Australia, the combination of the dingo-proof fence and culling of the animals to stop them attacking livestock means they are now not found in large areas of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
A paper published in Restoration Ecology by Australian ecologists suggests the reintroduction of dingoes could prove beneficial to native wildlife.
“Predation by foxes and feral cats is the key driver of extinctions, so we need to change what we’ve previously done and look at if the dingo can help,” said Dr Thomas Newsome of the University of Sydney, the report’s lead author.