Yellow Dog Dingo (1978)
By July 1st, 1978
Wildlife scientists track and observe the dingo across Central Australia and the east coast. They conclude that there is nothing simple about dingo management.
[Music plays and text appears on screen: the Researchers. Yellow Dog Dingo]
[Image changes to show a dingo climbing onto a rock on an embankment]
[Image changes to show a dingo running up a rocky embankment]
Narrator: “Still ran dingo, yellow dog dingo, always hungry, grinning like a rat trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther, ran after kangaroo, he had to.” From the Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling’s description of Australia’s native dog.
[Image changes to show an adult dingo and pups]
Graziers have claimed for years that the dingo is responsible for heavy stock losses, especially amongst sheep. The Australian Meat Research Committee responded by earmarking funds for a scientific study of the dog.
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Yellow dog dingo has always captured more than his fair share of publicity.
[Image changes to show dingo tracks in the sand]
Largely because he is controversial and, certainly in those days, a bit of a mystery.
[Image changes to show dingo pups running along the ground]
[Image changes to show a man photographing the dingo pups]
[Image changes back to the dingo pups running along the ground]
A team from the CSIRO’s Division of Wildlife Research in Canberra was mobilised in 1966 to carry out the study.
[Image changes to show a man tracking radio signals]
[Image changes back to the dingo pups]
At first no-one could even accurately tell the difference between a purebred dingo and a crossbreed. It was some of the initial research which established that the difference lay in the size of the teeth and certain bones in the skull.
[Image changes to show to show a close-up of a dingo pup]
[Image changes to show a vehicle driving through open bushland towing a makeshift sled]
Across central Australia and the east coast the dogs were observed, tracked and examined in their own domain for thousands of hours. This makeshift sled is smoothing the ground so that paw prints can be easily seen later.
[Image changes to show open bushland]
Over the years methods of tracing their travels were refined. At first their tracks were followed.
[Image changes to show dingo tracks in the sand leading to a den]
[Image changes to show a captured dingo being fitted with a radio transmitter collar]
More recently large numbers were caught in padded traps and muzzled briefly so that they could be fitted with collars containing small radio transmitters.
[Image changes to show the dingo being released]
[Image changes to show various images of a man tracking radio signals from the collar]
Radio receivers pick up the signals from the collars and the dog’s movements can be monitored for 24 hours a day. At close range the tracker needs to stay downwind. Sometimes the trail went cold.
[Image changes to show a dingo running away]
[Image changes to show a man retrieving a collar from a den]
In a rocky den the collar is located, but minus the wily dingo.
[Image changes back to show the dingo pups]
These youngsters are waiting their chance at a rabbit warren.
[Image changes to show rabbits in an open field]
Rabbits, rodents, lizards and carrion are the preferred diet, according to the studies in central Australia. Meanwhile in the eastern highlands wallabies and wombats are the choice over sheep and cattle.
[Image changes to show wallabies in an open field]
But then the dingo will eat the most common food on hand, even grasshoppers if need be.
[Image changes back to the dingo pups chasing grasshoppers]
Doctor Alan Newsome, leader of the CSIRO team, says the dingoes sometimes may be a positive helper to landholders by keeping down pests. In central Australia for instance after a drought the dingoes delayed rabbit build up by at least six months when the good times returned. But it is difficult to generalise, as Doctor Newsome explains.
[Image changes to show Doctor Newsome holding some dingo pups]
Dr Newsome: The question we’d all like answered of course is whether dingoes are goodies or baddies. Looking at these lot it’s a bit hard to imagine that they’re baddies, but I’ve seen one sheep man in this mountain country driven out by the effects of one dingo on his flock. On the other hand we’ve all seen, those of us who have worked on dingoes have been dingoes very abundant in parts of inland Australia and doing no perceptible damage to stock at all.
[Image changes back to show the dingo pups]
It seems to depend very much on circumstance, how much native gain there is, whether it’s a drought, or whether it’s good times.
[Text appears on screen: Dr. Newsome, CSIRO]
The difficulty is that there’s no real… no one answer for dingo management in the scientific sense for any place in Australia, and no one answer therefore for all of Australia. Trying to predict whether dingoes are going to be a nuisance is a bit like predicting lightening strike, and difficulty is also trying to prevent it. Management appears to be… will have to be a rather more flexible affair than we imagined, because there’s just no simple answer.
[Image changes to show a dingo pup standing on a rocky embankment]
And management will presumably have to change from place to place, from time to time.
[Text appears on screen: CSIRO]