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Dingo management on Fraser Island

Fraser Island dingo population

A preliminary dingo capture-mark-recapture experiment suggests there are approximately 200 individual dingoes on Fraser Island. Photo: Queensland Government

A preliminary dingo capture-mark-recapture experiment suggests there are approximately 200 individual dingoes on Fraser Island. Photo: Queensland Government

Results of the Analysis of the preliminary capture-mark-recapture experiment* (Appleby, R. and Jones, D. (2011)), which is part of the Fraser Island dingo population study stage 1, strongly suggests a current population of approximately 200 individual dingoes live on Fraser Island (a landmass of 166,000ha). Current estimations suggest Fraser Island supports up to 30 dingo packs roaming within defined territories all over the island (Corbett (1998) in the Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy review 2006*, page 10); that is, approximately 166,000ha.

Numbers increase after breeding and decline through natural attrition. Generally a pack consists of up to 12 animals, but total dingo numbers and pack sizes vary across seasons and years, in line with available resources such as, vacant territory and food resources.

* References can be found and viewed from: Fraser Island dingo publications list.

Also see: 

Culling

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service does not cull dingoes on Fraser Island. The Queensland Government considers public safety to be the number one priority in managing the Fraser Island dingo population. It is for this reason that any dingo identified as a high-risk may be euthanised. This is not culling. Culling is a proactive or predetermined reduction of animal numbers to try to reduce an animal population.

An important feature of species, such as dingoes, is the ability to self-regulate their population size. While we do not fully understand the mechanics of the regulation process for any species, it appears that they are capable of maintaining a population size that is sustainable without human intervention.

Competition for resources among animals forced to disperse and find vacant territory leads to a number of deaths through rivalry and aggression within and between dingo groups (packs). In this way, the population keeps itself in balance with the available resources. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service believe that, as a component of the island’s natural resources, dingoes should be allowed to regulate their population size in response to available natural resources.

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High-risk dingoes

In April 2001, a nine-year-old boy was killed by dingoes on Fraser Island and his young companion was seriously mauled. This incident occurred at Waddy Point in the northern section of Fraser Island. The immediate response enacted over the five days following the event was the selective destruction of 28 animals that were habituated to humans, displayed similar threatening behaviour and frequented areas heavily used by people.

The incident confirmed the risk that dingoes pose to humans and significantly altered the approach to dingo management. By November 2001, the first formal Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy* was in place. It contained seven strategies which focused on conserving the dingoes and reducing negative incidents of dingo-human interactions. To ensure its continuing effectiveness the dingo management strategy has regular independent and internal reviews and updates including major audits in 2003, 2009 and 2012*.

More recently, an independent scientific review of the Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy was completed in December 2012. This review formed the basis of the new Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management strategy released in July 2013.

Since 2001, a number of high-risk dingoes have been euthanised by appropriately trained and authorised Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers. This is not part of a culling action; it is done to protect people from attack. Once a dingo has lost its natural fear of people and starts to use aggressive tactics to gain dominance over, or food from, people the habit cannot be changed easily. These dingoes display threatening or high-risk behaviour such as nipping and biting, and in some cases this escalates very quickly to attacks and serious mauling.

Actions involving direct management of dingoes (for example, euthanising individuals) should not need to continue indefinitely and are only undertaken when threatening and high-risk interactions occur.

* References can be found and viewed from: Fraser Island dingo publications list.

Also see:

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Dingo deterrents

Less than one per cent of areas on Fraser Island that are accessible to people, including some campgrounds, townships and resorts, currently have dingo-deterrent fences and grids. These are installed for the safety of dingoes as much as they are for the safety of people.

It appears clear that fencing has been effective at eliminating serious incidents within fenced areas, but the potential for serious incidents to occur within them remains as long as gates are still left open. (Ecosure review, December 2012 (PDF), page 76)

The dingo grids, designed to let vehicles through without having to open a gate, are based on cattle grid designs. The primary dingo deterrent is not the grid, but rather the low wattage electrified wires crossing it. The grid itself is in place to prevent the use of gates that are inconvenient to traffic, may not be closed properly, collect road run-off and sand debris from vehicle tyres. The grid also prevents contact between the wires and the ground, which would short out the unit and cause it to fail.

The 12 volt electrical units used on each grid, are solar-powered and deliver a mild shock, if touched, to discourage dingoes from crossing the grids. Similar to cattle that learn to stay clear of electrified grids, dingoes soon learn not to cross the grids. It causes no harm to the animal.

Currently, there are 16 dingo-deterrent grids on Fraser Island. These are located in previous high-risk areas: Eurong (6), Happy Valley (3), Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village (1), K'gari camping area (1), Cathedral Beach campground (2), Dundubara (2), Dilli Village campground (1) and Central Station (1). All grids are for vehicles only. Pedestrian gates are provided close-by. These have spring-loaded devices installed to ensure the gate closes quickly after people have passed through.

Keeping dingoes from attempting to scavenge around townships and dumps helps to keep the animals wild and live a free life without dependence on hand-outs.

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Legislation

The dingo is a declared indigenous species to Australia and is legally protected in Queensland national parks. Photo: Queensland Government

The dingo is a declared indigenous species to Australia and is legally protected in Queensland national parks. Photo: Queensland Government

Most of Fraser Island is part of the Great Sandy National Park and the Fraser Island Recreation Area. Fraser Island is also a listed world heritage area. Common law 'duty of care' requires the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to address the safety of people entering and using lands, water and facilities in the Fraser Island Recreation Area.

Authority for management derives from the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (PDF) and the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006 (PDF). The Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 also has implications for the management of the Fraser Island World Heritage Area, including any wildlife within it.

The Great Sandy Region Management Plan 1994–2010, approved by the Queensland Government, was revised in 2005. It provides a whole-of-government approach to managing the Great Sandy Region, which includes the Fraser Island World Heritage Area. The coastal boundaries are the high water mark (Great Sandy National Park), the low water mark (Fraser Island Recreation Area) and 500 m offshore (world heritage area). The Fraser Coast Regional Council is responsible for the townships and freehold title land.

Under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (PDF), the dingo is a species declared indigenous to Australia. Sections 17 and 62 of the Act provide for the legal protection of the dingo as a natural resource in protected areas such as national parks. Consequently, a dingo cannot be interfered with on a protected area unless the chief executive has granted a permit or authority. Authority to destroy a dingo on Fraser Island is only provided to a small number of delegated officers. The cardinal principle for management of national parks is contained in section 17 of the Act which states:

A national park is to be managed to, provide to the greatest possible extent, for the permanent preservation of the area’s natural condition and the protection of the area’s cultural resources and values.

The dingo is classed as native wildlife under this legislation and hence is protected on the national park estate. Elsewhere in Queensland dingoes are a declared (pest) species under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002 (PDF).

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is fully aware of its obligations under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 (PDF) to protect the dingoes on Fraser Island as a native species, and the service is committed to conserving the island's dingo population. Nevertheless, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has an equally compelling duty of care to help protect members of the public from aggressive dingo attacks. It is for this reason that any dingo identified as a high-risk may be euthanised. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service policy does not presently include any proposals for euthanising dingoes outside of the 'high-risk' category, except for any dingo terminally injured by human activity (such as a vehicle strike) or severe natural occurrence (such as dingo attack).

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Penalties

Under the Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006 (PDF), a person anywhere in Queensland who feeds a native animal that is dangerous or capable of injuring a person can be issued with an infringement notice or be prosecuted. Staff can issue on-the-spot fines—3 penalty points—for offences with a maximum of 40 penalty points.

Under the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006 (PDF), a person who feeds an animal in a recreation area without the Recreation Area Management Board’s authority or who fails to comply with a directive provided by a sign (or regulatory notice) can be issued with an infringement notice or be prosecuted. Staff can issue on-the-spot fines—3 penalty points—for offences with a maximum of 40 penalty points.

Under the Nature Conservation (Protected Areas Management) Regulation 2006 (PDF) and Recreation Areas Management Act 2006 (PDF) a person in a Recreation Area or Protected Area must not feed or disturb dingoes and must keep food safe from dingoes. Infringement notices or prosecution can result for non-compliance. Staff can issue on-the-spot fines—3 penalty units—for offences with a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units.

Note: 1 Penalty unit = AU$113.85 (current at 1 July 2014). The dollar value for penalty units will change over time.

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Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy

Dingo management on Fraser Island is supported by many dingo experts, scientists and wildlife welfare organisations. Photo: Queensland Government

Dingo management on Fraser Island is supported by many dingo experts, scientists and wildlife welfare organisations. Photo: Queensland Government

The Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy has been prepared with expert input and is implemented by a team guided by qualified scientists who are wildlife experts in their own right. Collectively, the team has the most direct and consistent experience in managing dingoes on Fraser Island based upon long-term knowledge and understanding. The team is committed to the overall welfare and survival of the dingoes, and provision of human safety.

Dingo management on the island is supported by an active dingo working group including many dingo experts, scientists and wildlife welfare organisations including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). A dingo management strategy has been in place for Fraser Island since 2001 and is regularly reviewed.

Also seeFraser Island publications list for:

  • Fraser Island dingo management strategy November 2001
  • Fraser Island dingo management strategy December 2006
  • Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy review December 2012.

Management strategy objectives

The current and most recently updated Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy is dated July 2013. The stated overall priority objectives of this strategy are to:

  • ensure the conservation and preservation of a sustainable wild dingo population on Fraser Island
  • minimise adverse animal welfare impacts caused by humans to dingoes
  • minimise the risk posed to humans by dingoes
  • provide people on Fraser Island with a safe, enjoyable opportunity to see dingoes in an environment as near as possible to their natural state.

To achieve these objectives, 4 major programs including specific actions have been developed and updated as a coordinated and integrated response. These 4 programs will address the critical components required to achieve the desired outcomes. The programs are: risk intervention; communication and education; research; evaluation and review.

Fraser Island dingo risk assessments are conducted regularly. These assessments, undertaken by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for all visitor nodes and townships across Fraser Island, analyse the risks associated with negative dingo-human interactions on an individual site basis.

* References can be found and viewed from: Fraser Island dingo publications list.

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Dingo education

The Fraser Island Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy includes a comprehensive education program which was designed to change people’s behaviour towards living in and visiting dingo territory; essentially all of Fraser Island. On-ground management operations, compliance patrols and education campaigns are all governed by available resources. The education campaigns are spikes in education through targeted engagement, media releases and awareness-raising activities. These campaigns target different audiences in different seasons, including backpacker groups, resort guests, tour patrons, fisher folk, residents and the many free and independent travellers that visit Fraser Island.

Some groups comply more readily than others. Dingoes become habituated, and may turn aggressive, in areas where previous visitors were careless—that is, rubbish left lying around, food not stored securely—or in some cases, deliberate non-compliance such as feeding dingoes as if they were pets. It took years for the many visitors and residents to comply with the Be dingo-safe! guidelines and regulations. The seasonal education campaigns and compliance patrols continue.

The education component of the dingo management strategy has been reviewed 3 times since its formal commencement in 2001. Two major visitor surveys have also been completed. Recommendations from each review are included in communication plans, adding to the already comprehensive program of communication, and community and visitor education.

The Be dingo-safe! education program includes signs—interpretive and regulatory—brochures; web information; pre-visit dingo-safe camping videos (with multiple language texts); newsletter and media articles; regular contact with commercial tour operators, resorts and accommodation houses and residents.

Fraser Island is accessible by permit and every permit pack contains comprehensive Be dingo-safe! information as well as any immediate response products such as ‘Aggressive dingo alerts’ to warn people in which areas threatening or high-risk dingoes have recently been reported. Day trippers or walk-on barge passengers may not receive Be dingo-safe! information as they do not require a permit. They can pick up a Be dingo-safe! pamphlet on any of the barges or can read the safety guidelines on signs that QPWS has installed on the barges, at major entry points and locations across the island—even as posters behind toilet doors. An updated communication plan is currently being prepared to incorporate the findings from the 2012 Fraser Island Dingo Management Strategy review (Ecosure review, December 2012). (PDF)

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Last updated
21 August 2014