Dingoes can and do cause harm to humans, says Azaria Coroner

June 12, 2012
Dingoes can and do cause harm to humans, says Azaria Coroner

GoSeeAustralia continues our series on How to Live with Wild Australia and learns-the dingo, the only native dog in Australia, must be treated with respect.

The dingo Australias only native dog is thought to have descended from a family of wild Asian dogs. Introduced to Australia about 40006000 years ago, dingoes probably found their way to Australia through trading between Aboriginal people and Indonesians fishing in our waters.

Today, dingoes are found in many parts of Australia. Dingoes are an Australian meat-eater (carnivore) and hunt many other animals such as the kangaroo. The dingo is thought to have contributed to the mainland extinction of the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) through increased competition for food.

Unable to bark, the dingo howls at night to keep the family group together and to warn others to stay away. Watch out dingoes can bite. A dingo is a wild animal and can be dangerous when provoked. Their origin is obscure, although they seem to be related to the Indian Wolf.

As most Australians know, their reputation as killers was reinforced as a result of the Azaria Chamberlain case. Lindy and Michael Chamberlain were camping near Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Central Australia in 1980, when their 10-week-old baby daughter Azaria disappeared. Lindy, who claimed that a dingo had taken the baby, was subsequently jailed for murder, but after three years, new evidence was found which suggested that a dingo had indeed been the culprit, and Lindy was released.

A film called Evil Angels was subsequently made about the story. As a matter of interest, the poor standard of forensic science in the Chamberlain case led to the establishment of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.

There have been other instances of dingoes attacking children. In 2001, two dingoes attacked and killed a nine-year-old boy on Fraser Island north of Brisbane.

AAP reports today (June 12, 2012)-

Text of Northern Territory coroner Elizabeth Morriss findings into the death of Azaria Chamberlain:
Azaria Chamberlain died at Uluru, then known as Ayers Rock, on 17 August 1980.
The cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo.
Recommendations: It is obvious, not just from these findings, but from other injuries and deaths since, dingoes can and do cause harm to humans. The reason for this behaviour, either on the 17 August 1980 or since is beyond the scope of this inquest.
Given the length of time since the death of Azaria, I do not intend to make any recommendations in relation to public safety and the control or management of dingoes in areas frequented by members of the public.
It is also not appropriate to make any comment on animal management practices at the time in and around the Uluru area.
Various wildlife and park management authorities around Australia are responsible for accommodating and balancing the needs of visitors and animals, including native wildlife. It is appropriate that they take measures to manage the now identified risks.
Dated this 12th day of June 2012.
Elizabeth Morris, Coroner.

The Environmental Protection Agency (Qld)has this to say about living with dingoes.

The dingo, the only native dog in Australia, must be treated with respect. Dingoes are carnivores and hunt many other animals. The dingo is an important predator, helping to keep a healthy balance in natural environments. Keep yourselves safe around dingoes. Always stay close to your children, even small teenagers. Walk in small groups. Watch dingoes quietly from a distance; don't encourage, excite or coax them. NEVER feed dingoes, even indirectly.

Dingoes are sophisticated hunters, sometimes operating in packs of up to five or six, and farmers say they will often kill far more animals than they need for food. Sheep, calves, rabbits, kangaroos, and emus are all on the menu. But there have been very few reports of dingoes attacking able-bodied adults.

Editor's note: Please hold your cursor over pictures to read the caption.

Dingo on the hunt Cape York courtesy Jacki Mullholland Punsand Bay Camping ResortTourists who dont know better are sometimes seen feeding dingoes. This is frowned upon by the authorities, because it encourages dingoes to hang around camp grounds. Although some people argue otherwise, most experts agree that dingoes cannot be tamed, and are therefore unsuitable for keeping as pets. Dingoes dont bark, however the sound of dingoes howling at night can be quite eerie.

Dingoes are fairly common and can be seen in national parks. Fraser Island http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/fraser/index.htmlis still one of the best places to see dingoes. In Queensland the dingo is protected in national parks and other protected areas. Still widespread, the dingo is not endangered. While considered a pest, the dingo is an important predator, helping to keep a healthy balance in natural environments.

People travelling through dingo territory has increased contact and turned many dingoes into a public nuisance. Some dingoes have even had to be destroyed. Attracting and feeding dingoes makes the animals less fearful of people and dependent on hand-outs. Hunting-skills decline and they may become aggressive towards people who dont feed them. This has become a problem on Fraser Island.

As well as their natural diet, dingoes will take many things we may not regard as dingo food bottles of cooking oil, sauces, spreads, food wrappers, fruit and vegetables, bait, sweets, even soap, toothpaste and leather shoes. Around camp sites dingoes learn to scavenge for food by over-turning or opening iceboxes, raiding rubbish bags, licking barbecue plates and drinking dirty washing up water and stealing from picnic tables and tents. While searching for food, dingoes might harass you or your children. Think carefully about your food storage. Many containers are easily opened by dingoes. Be dingo-safe! For the safety of your children and other visitors and for the well-being of dingoes - DON'T feed dingoes; leave food available; or leave children unsupervised.

Keep yourselves safe around dingoes. Always stay close to your children, even small teenagers. Walk in small groups. Watch dingoes quietly from a distance; don't encourage, excite or coax them. NEVER feed dingoes, even indirectly. Never offer food to dingoes. Lock up your food stores and iceboxes. Pack away your food scraps and rubbish. Keep fish, bait and burley away from dingoes. Make your tent unappealing for dingoes.

Tell others how to be Dingo-Safe. If you are threatened by dingoes stand up at your full height. Face the dingo. Fold your arms and keep eye contact. Calmly back away. If in pairs, stand back to back. Confidently call for help. Do not run or wave your arms. If attacked, defend yourself aggressively. Strike the dingo with an object such as a stick, backpack or coat.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which includes the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), is a department of the Queensland Government. The EPA strives to protect Queenslands natural and cultural heritage, promote sustainable use of its natural capital and ensure a clean environment.

Key functions of the organisation are environmental planning, environmental policy, management of parks, forestry and wildlife, environmental operations, sustainable industries, environmental and technical services, corporate affairs, and corporate development.