Shooting threatened dingoes back on the table in Victoria
Humane Society International (HSI) was appalled this week after being informed that the Victorian Government is considering the reintroduction of a ‘wild dog’ bounty, just over a year after the same Labor Government ceased the program. Dingoes are listed as threatened under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, and as they will be indiscriminately killed through any shooting program HSI has written to Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford seeking confirmation that there is no intention of reinstating the bounty.
“Over the four years before the ban more than 2,000 dogs were shot in Victoria and their scalps handed in for $200,000 of publically funded bounties. But how do we know they were so-called ‘wild dogs’ and not dingoes? The latest research shows determining purity in the field borders on impossible, so there were undoubtedly many dingoes shot for Government incentives in the only State they are listed as a threatened species,” said HSI Senior Program Manager Evan Quartermain.
Shooting has been found to be an ineffective dog control measure and inappropriate for reducing populations over extensive areas1. Research also suggests that dog control can be counterproductive for stock predation, with intact dingo packs exhibiting behavioural boundaries that limit such impacts. When packs are fractured through shooting, loss of social cohesion leads to more opportunistic feeding patterns, meaning an increased dog control could actually be economically detrimental for pastoralists.
Furthermore, a growing body of evidence shows that dingo-dog hybrids share many important aspects of dingo social behaviour such as pack formation and feeding habits, and HSI continues to argue that as hybrids are performing the same ecological role as dingoes, they should be considered equally as important to conserve in Australian ecosystems. Dingoes are important predators on feral cats and foxes. The first step is treating hybrid dingoes as wildlife instead of pest animals, and avoiding compounding the pressures on them through programs such as ‘wild dog’ bounties.
Mr Quartermain concluded, “The same selection processes that led to the evolution of the dingo are still acting on hybrids today and we quickly see dingo traits and characteristics assert themselves in these animals. Indiscriminate killing programs don’t just hurt pure dingoes; they hurt the entire ecosystem thrown out of balance when you start shooting apex predators. Victoria took a very positive step in 2008 by listing the dingo as a threatened species, but any move to bring back a dog bounty would be in stark contrast. For the good of the environment and dingo conservation it simply must not happen.”