June 17, 2009

Dingoes Could Be More Protective Than Harmful

Wild Australian dingoes could prove to be beneficial to small native animals and even cattle farmers, according to new research.

Reporting in the Royal Society's journal Proceedings B, Dr. Mike Letnic from the University of Sydney said that despite common fears that dingoes threaten certain animal populations, they could actually help smaller native creatures stay alive by killing other animals that pose dangers to their existence.

The dingo is known to hunt kangaroos, which feed off of plants the small animals rely on, and red foxes that hunt for the small mammals.
"There is a lot of pressure to get rid of dingoes, and they can do damage," Letnic told BBC News.

"The prevailing view that they're introduced and must be removed. But dingoes suppress fox and kangaroo numbers, and when you don't have dingoes in the system, kangaroos basically eat all the herbage and foxes take all of the prey."

Researchers compared different regions that were separated by the dingo fence constructed in farmlands of New South Wales and Victoria to protect farm animals from dingoes.

They noted that in regions where dingoes roamed free, there was far less kangaroos and red foxes. Additionally, they found that small native animals thrived.

Conversely, when studying lands protected from dingoes, researchers noticed much fewer native animals were present.

"You basically have two ecological universes - a system with dingoes and a system without dingoes - they are completely different places," said Letnic.
Researchers concluded that 16 threatened animals would be protected by the presence of dingoes. In comparison, the dingo would pose a threat to only three species.

"The chances are that [cattle farmers] lose more by what kangaroos do than by what dingoes do," Letnic told BBC News.


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