Dingoes are being used as part of an Australian-first project to patrol an area some 40km west of Melbourne to see if they can reduce the problem feral cats and foxes are causing to the local environment.
These pests have attacked the native wildlife and plants in the Eynesbury area, resulting in many native animals now facing a major struggle to survive.
Eschewing more traditional ways of eliminating such a plague by laying bait, conservationists believe they can employ dingoes to help solve the on-going problem.
The trial will see two dingoes from Toolern Vale’s Dingo Discovery Centre patrolling part of the the town’s 288ha grey box forest in the hope that their very presence will scare away some of the predators.
Austin and Aayla – the pair on patrol – are to be released by their handler and allowed roam around the enclosure twice a day, where they will mark their territory and catch and kill pests .
The Melton Leader reports that the authorities will slowly extend the fenced off area until the entire forest is protected by dingoes.
The joint venture is being run by the Australian Dingo Foundation and Aus Eco Solutions. Shakira Todd, it’s field co-ordinator and Eynesbury woodlands environmental programs manager, said their research pointed to dingoes on patrol as simply not just killing cats and foxes, but resulting in the pests actively avoiding the bigger animals.
Stressing that the Eynesbury community had backed what they were trying to achieve, Ms Told said the aim now was to get the number of pests down so that they could enlarge the enclosure for dingoes’ patrol and reintroduce native species such as quolls, bettongs and bandicoots.
Lyn Watson, the Dingo Discovery Centre owner, said she would be very proud to see the animals out on the land once more.
Ms Watson said it was ironic that the dingoes had come back to restore the forest to its previous grandeur, having roamed the same lands many years before. She was hopeful that if the project proved successful that it would be wheeled out in other fence reserves across the country.