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Dingoes may be the key to saving threatened native mammals

A dingo in the NSW bush. Photo: Charlotte Mills

Allowing dingoes to return to the Sturt National Park in far north-western NSW could be the key to helping threatened native mammals, say University of Sydney researchers.

“Our approach is purposefully bold because only an experiment on this scale can resolve the long-running debate over whether the dingo can help halt Australia’s biodiversity collapse and restore degraded rangeland environments,” said Dr Thomas Newsome from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney,

In an article published in the journal Restoration Ecology with Dr Newsome’s colleagues in Australia and in America, he outlines an experiment.

“Half the world’s mammal extinctions over the last 200 years have occurred in Australia and we are on track for an acceleration of that loss,” he said.

“Our approach is based on dingoes’ ability to suppress populations of invasive predators such as red foxes and feral cats that prey on threatened native species. Dingoes can also control numbers of introduced species such as European wild rabbits, feral pigs and goats or native herbivores such as kangaroos, that in high numbers can contribute to rangeland degradation.”

One of the major challenges is convincing livestock producers and local communities to support the experiment.

“It took 20 years of debate in America before wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho,” Newsome said. “So let’s start having the conversation.”

NSW law currently requires the control of dingoes in Sturt National Park so that would have to change to allow the experiment to proceed.

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