New research finds that the culling of dingoes in Australia to protect livestock does not open the way for other predators to take their place.
Credit: Image courtesy of BioMed Central Limited

The culling of dingoes in Australia to protect livestock does not open the way for other predators to take their place finds research in BioMed Central’s open access journal Frontiers in Zoology by the Invasive Animals CRC in Australia. Dingoes and red foxes are temporarily suppressed, while feral cats and goannas are not affected, which suggests that careful planning of culls, around calving time to save livestock from attacks, should not in the long-term harm of other animals in the ecosystem.

Top predators like dingoes are often culled to protect livestock. It has been suggested that this practice may lead to increased numbers of next level predators such as red foxes, feral cats and goannas. This might then lead to a decrease in the numbers of smaller native prey normally eaten by these mesopredators, and ultimately a destruction of indigenous ecosystems.
Researchers from the University of Queensland and the Invasive Animals CRC set up specific areas with no baiting, and areas where dingoes were killed using poisoned bait within nine large cattle ranches across Australia — in the same way as is normally practised in ranches. The effect of this on predator populations was monitored every three months for up to five years on each ranch.
Benjamin Allen from Invasive Animals CRC and Biosecurity Queensland who led the study explained, “In any particular season, at any site, there were more dingoes, foxes, cats, and goannas in unbaited rather than baited areas demonstrating that the mesopredators did not benefit from lower numbers of dingoes (and in the case of foxes, were also killed by the same bait). Under current wild dog management regimes based on infrequent and patchy application of poisoned baits across a landscape, dingo populations recovered to pre-control levels within months. This means that patchy and periodic baiting does not create the conditions required for mesopredators to increase. This helps us understand why, without widespread comprehensive and frequent wild dog control, dingo numbers in Australia have increased to high numbers.”

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Journal Reference:
Benjamin L Allen, Lee R Allen, Richard M Engeman, Luke K-P Leung. Intraguild relationships between sympatric predators exposed to lethal control: predator manipulation experiments. Frontiers in Zoology, 2013; 10 (1): 39 DOI: 10.1186/1742-9994-10-39