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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Dingoes and man: Uneasy coexistence
Dingo
The wild dogs have got increasingly aggressive
Dingoes are known for their tenacity and aggression and the ones at Fraser Island are known to be one of the purest breeds of the dog in Australia.


The dingoes get within six feet of you, and they can sense the fright in a person

Norma Hannant, resort owner
Fatal attacks on humans are extremely rare, but the death of a nine year-old boy at the popular eastern Australian tourist site has highlighted underlying problems in the relationship between the human and dingo populations.

Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to visit the island, but living alongside the islanders - and being fed by tourists - has caused the dingoes to lose their fear.

Resort owner Norma Hannant says visitors try to pose for photographs with the dingoes, and the wild dogs have got increasingly aggressive.

"The dingoes are bold, they get within six feet of you and they can sense the fright in a person ... that is the very person they will attack," she says.

'Waiting to happen'

One member of the Fraser Island Association says Monday's attack was something that was "waiting to happen."


"It's a terrible thing to say but ... I think there's been a fair bit of pussy-footing around" said Eric Parups from the Fraser Island Association.

Rangers on the island currently kill dingoes that appear aggressive to humans. About 40 of the animals have been destroyed during the past 10 years.

The Queensland State Government reviewed its dingo management procedures in 1999 after a series of attacks, including one on a German tourist and a 13-month-old baby.

Two English tourists were attacked at Waddy Point on the island in 1998.

Tourist attraction

Part of the new scheme - expected to be introduced in the next few weeks - include heavy penalties for feeding the dingoes.


It's not like they're garbage ... and they can't just be moved somewhere else

Fraser Island resident George Done
But a former president of the Fraser Island residents association, George Done, says the issue is not so clear cut.

The wild dogs are a tourist attraction themselves, he says, with many tourists coming to Fraser Island to see the Dingoes.

He told BBC News Online that culling the animals would be unlikely to provide a long-term answer and moving them off the island would also cause problems.

"It's not like they're garbage ... and they can't just be moved somewhere else, " he said.

Ancient breed

Dingoes are Australia's largest mammalian predator and have lived in the country for at least 3,500 years.

Dingo
Dingoes help control introduced predators
They have an important ecological role, with anecdotal evidence that they help maintain populations of endangered species by controlling numbers of introduced predators like cats and foxes.

The Dingo belongs to a group of primitive dogs with short coats, erect ears, characteristic skull shape and teeth, and an annual breeding cycle.

It is medium built and highly agile, weighing between 10 and 20 kg.

The most common colour is ginger with white feet, chest and tail tip, although animals of other colours including sable, black, and white are often found.

The wild dogs are predominantly carnivorous, but will eat a wide variety of foods including plant material and insects.

Their annual breeding season commonly begins in earnest in autumn continuing into winter with litters averaging three to five puppies born between April and August.

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30 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Dingoes kill boy at tourist spot
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