Dealing with dingos
The issue of dingo management should be kept separate from the death of Azaria Chamberlain says Deakin University’s Dr Euan Ritchie.
“It is important to remember that the real tragedy here is the death of Azaria,” said Dr Ritchie, lecturer and researcher in ecology working in the University’s Centre for Integrative Ecology.
“The management of the dingo population in Australia is something that we need to keep separate from that.
“In the area of safety and dingoes, particularly with young children, I think the important thing is education.
“Dingos are no more dangerous than domestic dogs.
“In fact more people are injured by domestic dogs than dingos on a yearly basis.
“What people, and particularly parents need to do is to make sure that children are not left unsupervised in areas where they might be in danger, whether that be in the Outback or on Fraser Island.
“We know a lot more about dingos now than we did when Azaria died.
“I think we need to continue to work on that education program so that humans and dingos can continue to co-exist as they have done for thousands of years in Australia.”
Dr Ritchie has been a keen student of the dingo and other predators as he has investigated their ecological roles in structuring and maintaining ecosystems, including assessing their importance for biodiversity conservation and management.
Recently he called for the re-introduction of dingos and Tasmanian devils into landscapes to help protect Australia’s diminishing biodiversity.
"We need to be quite bold and allow predators back into the landscape and see if they can reverse some of the damage we've done," says Dr Ritchie.
Since European settlement, humans have drastically altered the Australian environment, resulting in one of the highest rates of species loss in the world.
Cats and foxes have wreaked havoc on small wildlife species, while larger natives, such as kangaroos, have multiplied.
Dr Ritchie says the traditional approach to conservation is to manage species in isolation instead of considering the whole ecosystem and that needs to change.
"We are constantly trying to poison foxes to reduce their populations and we are constantly culling kangaroos to keep their numbers low,” he said.
“But the reason why these species are problematic is that there is nothing controlling them.
In a true wild system, larger predators would control both of these species.