There are renewed calls for Victoria's government to take responsibility for the alleged mismanagement of the Victorian Dingo population, which continues to be subjected to toxic poison and recreational hunting practices.
The Association for Conservation of Australian Dingoes Incorporated (AFCAD) has labelled the management as disastrous and claimed the practice is putting the country’s ecological balance and biodiversity at risk.
The secretary of the AFCAD, Dr Ernest Healy, told NITV News on Monday that while the 2010 listing of dingos as a threatened species was a significant step forward in conservation, the measures implemented for their preservation were seriously inadequate.
“As a top predator, the dingo provides stability through the different layers of the ecosystem from top to bottom. The consensus from the top scientists in the country is that they are crucial to ecological balance, resilience, and stability,” Dr Healy said.
The calls have followed the Victorian Agriculture Department's push to renew authorisation to use aerial bait for another five years, after permission expired on 31 December 2019. The use of this practice across six zones in Victoria is responsible for the loss of thousands of dingoes protected under the FFG Act.
“High-level hybrid dingoes are ecologically and visually indistinguishable and the Victorian government has repeatedly been urged to legally acknowledge them as wildlife instead of wild dogs or pest animal. There is no ecological distinction, just a false legal distinction that causes ecological harm,” Dr Healy said.
A Victorian government spokesperson told NITV News that it acknowledges the importance of the conservation of the dingo as a native animal and their contributions to the natural environment, but labelled wild dogs as “invasive pests”.
In March, the Victorian state government resumed its fox and wild dog bounty, which has been in place since 2011. The program offers hunters financial compensation for killing dingoes under the premise of environmental conservation.
But AFCAD has claimed that in practice, recreational hunters are killing dingoes with immunity on those areas of Crown Land where dingoes are protected from government lethal control activities.
“The Government rationale has been the claim that wild dogs take a terrible claim on-farm wildlife, but official stock loss data across a 20-year period makes it clear that the proportion of stock lost to wild dogs is minuscule.
“Because the figures are simply not there, the government should stop the widespread use of poisons and simply put in place an arrangement for financial compensation for farmers who legitimately lose wildlife,” Dr Healy said.
A spokesperson for the Victorian government said that in 2010, the opportunity costs to Victoria’s livestock industries were estimated to be between $13 and $18 million per year.
“The damage wild dogs cause is also traumatic and confronting and can significantly affect the well-being of affected farmers and communities,” said the spokesperson.
The calls for minister accountability were backed by 26 of Australia’s leading environmental scientists, who have advocated for the protection of the Australian dingo on environmental grounds.
The scientific experts have issued a statement which labelled the use of toxins to kill dingoes as “unnecessary” and emphasised the impact of these chemicals on native wildlife species such as the threatened Spot Tailed Quoll, lizards, birds, and raptors.
“The top Australian scientists have repeatedly detailed the ecological importance of high-level hybrid dingoes and urged the Victorian Government to recognise their significance, but it falls on deaf ears because of the entrenched 200-year-old prejudice against the dingo,” Mr Healy said.