Frasier Island, on the southern coast of Australia, is the largest sand island in the world. Besides sand, the 75 by 15 mile area is comprised of rain forest, swamps, mangroves, eucalyptus, as well as the last remaining population of pure dingoes, Australia’s native wild dog.
Much of Australia’s dingo population has intermixed with the domestic dog. Frasier Island prohibits entry of dogs in order to prevent this. However, there is little government protection for the dingo other than this.
Jennifer Parkhurst, known as the dingo woman, has spent years photographing and fighting for the dingoes of Frasier Island. However, in 2010 she was fined $40,000 and handed down a nine month jail term for illegally feeding the wild dogs.
Parkhurst didn’t feed the dingoes for fun, or to draw them close for photos. The animals were starving and after she watched litter after litter of the sandy brown pups die, she could no longer stand by and do nothing. In her words, “I’d watch them die and I’d come home and just cry and cry,” she says. “In the end I just thought, ‘Why not? What’s the bloody point of not feeding them? They’re all going to end up dead anyway, so I might as well give them a nice life while it lasts.’ ”
For centuries, dingoes lived alongside humans on the island, eating their leftovers and for the most part coexisting peacefully. But in 2001 a nine year old boy was killed by dingoes and everything changed. Thirty one of the wild dogs were immediately shot by officials and a policy was put into effect that strictly banned any interaction between dingoes and people. Dingoes were hazed away from the tourist areas. Many were run over by vehicles. They were isolated by electric fences, keeping them away from their usual food sources. The once popular indigenous dingo was suddenly seen as a threat to all.
While the government reports a population of around 200 dingoes on Frasier Island, there are more likely only about 50 of the wild dogs left. There is a concerted effort to cull the animals in order to further develop Frasier Island for tourism.
Parkhurst, named 2012 Conservationist of the Year by the Australian Wildlife Protection Council, refused to let the court charge end her passion for the wild dogs of Frasier Island. She currently serves as Vice President for Save Frasier Island Dingoes, Inc. Their website offers details on the fascinating history of dingoes on the island, info on their behavior, as well as links to research, news events, and videos. This is truly the go-to site to educate yourself on the dingoes of Frasier Island.
In a curious coincidence, another woman by the name of Jennifer Britton Parkhurst is also out there supporting dingoes. She is behind the Ochre Project, a FB event designed to raise awareness for the plight of the dingo, including the threat the mainland wild dogs face from the government sanctioned use of Compound 1080. (See this Predator Defense link for more info)
The dingo is an animal many of us know little about. But the so called management plan laid out for them by the Queensland government reeks of the same ill intent we see with wolves, coyotes, and other predator management here in the states.
Educate yourself, and do what you can to help. The video clip below does an unnerving job of informing us of the damage tourism does to dingoes on Frasier Island. A lovely place, but for the sake of the much maligned wild dogs, it’s not on my travel itinerary.