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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Dingo cull begins at beauty spot
Fraser Island location map
Officials have begun culling dingoes near townships on Australia's Fraser Island after two of the wild dogs killed a nine-year-old boy.

The two dingoes mauled the boy and severed arteries in his throat on Monday after he fell over in sand dunes 150 metres (165 yards) away from the Waddy Point camp ground in the far north of the island.

The site of Monday's fatal dingo attack on Fraser island
Police sealed off the site of Monday's fatal attack
The boy's seven-year-old brother was also mauled.

The 160 dingoes on the world heritage listed island, about 260 km (160 miles) north of Brisbane, are considered the purest strain of dingoes in Australia and are protected.

It is not clear how many animals will be killed in the cull, carried out by Queensland state environment officials.

Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, told the state parliament on Wednesday: "What I am referring to is a limited cull of any dingo that frequents the townships and the camp grounds...any dog that stays in the bush will not be touched."

Government criticised

The Fraser Island dingoes share the world's largest sand island with an annual population of 300,000 tourists.

Dingo facts
Found throughout Australia, except Tasmania

Usually live singly, in pairs or small family groups

Weigh 10 - 20 kg

Most common colour is ginger with white chest and paws

After weaning, puppies are fed regurgitated food until old enough to hunt

Predominantly carnivorous, but will eat a wide variety of foods including plants and insects.

Do not bark, but can howl

Identified by typical skull shape and annual breeding cycle

The state government has been criticised for failing to act after attacks on tourists in 1999.

Just six days before the fatal attack, the Queensland Environment Minister, Dean Wells, refused to approve a dingo management plan for Fraser Island, demanding better plans for identifying dogs that may be about to attack people.

"Ironically, I didn't sign off on the plan because I thought there was more work that could be done on early identification of those dingoes about to turn vicious," Mr Wells said.

Conservationists are split on whether the dingoes need to be culled; the present population can only be sustained by the dingoes scavenging and taking food from tourists.

Large packs

Jan Oliver, president of the Queensland Wildlife Preservation Society, said constant feeding by tourists had allowed large packs of male dogs, that would not normally survive, to thrive on the island.

"More of the younger males are surviving and the alpha female - the dominant dog - is now less in control, as more of the younger dogs are living because of extra food supply," she said.

In an attempt to combat the feeding Mr Beattie ordered a strict enforcement of a A$1,000 (US$500) on the spot fine.

"The dingo is protected in Queensland in national parks by virtue of the fact that it is a wild animal," Mr Beattie said.

"It is not protected as an animal to be befriended, tamed, habituated to human contact, as has occurred on Fraser Island."

Separation

According to Dean Wells the dingoes and tourists could share the island, but only if they were strictly separated. "We've got to return the dingoes to the wild and keep them separate from the human population," he said.

Dingo
Contact with humans has made the dingoes more aggressive

But Eric Parups, president of the Fraser Island Association argues that the only real solution is to eradicate all of the dogs.

"It's us or them and with the many, many millions of dollars that the tourist industry brings it would be hard for the Government to say 'let's leave the dogs'," he said.

Missing tourist

Meanwhile, the search for a British tourist who went missing on the island over a month ago will resume next week, police said.

British health care company director David John Eason, 46, failed to rejoin his tour group at a rendezvous point on 29 March.

Hervey Bay water police spokesman Senior Constable Martin Webb said 120 police and volunteers, including forensic experts, would mount a search of the area on Monday.

He said the possibility Mr Eason had been attacked by dingoes "had crossed our minds, but it is not something we considered as a serious scenario."

See also:

30 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
30 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
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