'Pure Dingo' search at Blue Water Holes

May 11, 1999 Tumut and Adelong Times

DNA research will discover if any pure dingos are left in Kosciuszko National Park.

A group called the "Integrated Management of Wild Dogs and Dingo" is carrying out the project. The research comes at a time when wildlife experts are concerned the pure breed dingo could become extinct. The work in Kosciuszko is being carried out by scientist David Jenkins, who is concentrating on the area around the Blue Water Holes. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is liaising closely with the experts on the scheme.

NPWS Tumut district manager Steve Horsley said: "This research is mainly being carried out on the eastern edge of the park. "The dogs are being trapped and released back into the wild after having microchips put in them.

"The idea behind this is to find out where they are moving. "Blood samples are also being taken so the DNA can be tested to see if they are any pure dingos left in the park." The project is nearing completion after four years and so far 23 dogs have been trapped. "It is also hoped to get a better idea on how far these animals are moving," added Mr Horsley.

Dingo on the edge of extinction

Experts believe that the pureblood dingo could be verging on extinction in NSW. The dingo was once thought to be high in numbers across the state. But investigations have shown that decades of culling and interbreeding with domestic and feral dogs has threatened the pure breed because its gene pool is being swamped.

On this basis, the species could be extinct within a century. A meeting between key Government, conservation groups and scientific bodies has been called to tackle the situation. Experts from the NPWS and the 10-strong NSW Scientific Committee met with key agencies over the weekend. And the committee is assessing a nomination for listing the dingo on the Threatened Species Conservation Act.

The head of the scientific committee, Dr Chris Dickman. said: "When we look at the pure dingo, there is some evidence to suggest it is being forced to the wall. It is important people are aware that when we talk about the dingo, we are talking about the pure Australian native species. We are looking at dingo extinction Australia-wide in about 100 years time but the writing is on the wall for it being much sooner in NSW."

The NPWS, landholders, the Rural Lands Protection Board and experts from State Forests. the University of NSW and NSW Agriculture also joined in the debate. NPWS director, Terry Korn, said: "This was an excellent opportunity for all the agencies to come together to try to establish methods for assessing Dingo population. We need to look at the ways they can be managed to assist their survival, while recognising the need for programs to prevent stock losses. One of the most important aspects that needs to be realised is we are focusing on the pure bred dingo. If we are to help with its survival, all the agencies and community groups need to work together to establish a management plan to suit all stakeholders. At this stage, there is not enough information available to determine exactly what its status is." Mr Korn stressed it was important for rural people to be aware that attempts to assess dingos and their status would have no impact on wild dog control programs.

Meanwhile a program of wild dog control has just been completed in the national park area from the Blowering Dam to the Goobarragandra Valley. In three weeks, nine dogs were caught through trapping and this is being followed up with baiting, where poisoned meat is buried for the animals to dig up and eat.

Steve Horsley, Tumut district manager for the NPWS, said: "We need to do this to limit the attacks on stock, mainly sheep, on private land adjoining the park. "At this time of the year, the dogs seem to be pretty mobile, especially as when the young ones get to a certain age they are forced out of their parent's territory. "We have also found that where there are higher levels of dogs, there are hardly any foxes.

What is a Dingo ?

The dingo has been a part of the country's landscape since arriving 4,000 years ago. It has kept the kangaroo population in check, as well as controlling some feral animals, but it has also had an impact on grazing stock.

The 'Canis lupis' dingo is a sub-species of the grey wolf . Although it is a different species from dogs, 'Canis familiaris', it is genetically similar enough to interbreed.

Seafarers are believed to have introduced the dingo between 3,500 and 4,000 years ago. The dingo is a primitive dog, which evolved from the Indian wolf about 6,000 years ago.