Poisoning dingoes makes the survivors stronger and bigger


The argument by scientists who have published a research paper in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, is that if you poison an unwanted predator such as the dingo (Canis lupus dingo) they change and the change can undermine the desired outcome.


Dingo. Photo: Kym Parry.

It’s reported that a super-breed of larger, more muscular dingoes has evolved because of the poisoning of this species of wild dog over many years. Australians have been dropping poison bait (meat laden with poison which in this case is 1080) out of helicopters for a long time. Obviously many dingoes have been poisoned to death as have many other animals which is a major reason why animal advocates object to this method of animal control.

For the surviving dingoes the world is a better place because there is less competition for prey (kangaroos) and there’s more prey because there are less predators. This almost inevitably has led to the surviving dingoes growing to a size which is 10% larger than in the past. Larger dingoes pose a greater threat to farm animals. Consequently, the objectives of the poisoning is undermined.

The reaction to this unwanted development will, perhaps, be to increase the amount of poison thrown around the landscape and there may be a change in the sort of poison used. However, it is argued by Prof Letnic that the cycle will repeat itself.

Strychnine was originally used as a poison that was replaced in the early 1960s by sodium fluoroacetate which is euphemistically referred to as 1080. It is meant to be less harmful to native species other than the dingo with the intention of minimising collateral damage.

The same poison is used to kill feral cats, another heavily persecuted species and a non-native species. In this instance a scientist has manufactured a device which detects a passing cat triggering the ejection of the poison onto the cat’s back. The poison is licked off by the cat, ingested and the cat dies. The problem is twofold; it is cruel and the device can kill someone’s pet at least potentially.

For animal advocate like myself, the whole process of mass poisoning wild animals is inherently cruel. I know the reasons are well argued but there must be a better way and in this instance nature has made a good point. I hope it encourages the Australian authorities to rethink what they’re doing.