The dingo is an Australian wild dog. It is the largest carnivore in Australia today. While it is commonly referred to as a wild dog, it is actually believed to be semi-domesticated dog from south Asia, a subspecies of the Grey-wolf.
What is a Dingo
There is some controversy as to whether the dingo is an Australian native animal or not. The reason for this is because, unlike other native Australian animals that have been here millions of years, the dingo only arrived in Australia about 4,000 years ago.
How the Dingo Got to Australia
How the Dingo arrived in Australia is not certain. Fossil and other evidence indicates that it first arrived in Australia between 4,600 and 5,400 years ago. The most widely accepted theory is that they were brought to Australia by ancient seafarers. It is also suggested that, given the lack of much genetic variation amongst the dingo population today, the entire population may have sprung up from a single pregnant animal brought on an ancient vessel. Its close resemblance to the Asian wolf and native dogs found in many parts of Asia suggest that its origin was in Asia, possibly Thailand.
Description of the Dingo
While it has been domesticated from time to time by the Australian aborigines the dingo is essentially a wild dog. It is about 60cm tall and weighing up to 25kg. It has a stronger skull with bigger teeth than domesticated dogs. The colour of its fur is determined by its environment. Desert dingos have a red/yellow coat. Those in forests have dark fur with tan markings. Those living in the alpine regions are almost white. The dingo usually lives by itself or in a small family group. It eats almost anything it can find from Kangaroos and Wallabies to rats, mice, frogs, lizards and even fruit. The dingo does not bark, it yelps and howls like a wolf, especially at night, to communicate with other dingoes and scare off intruders. The dingo inhabits all parts of Australia, provided there is a supply of drinking water. Dingoes don't like water. Most dingoes will only wade water but will not swim. The dingo by nature is an opportunistic hunter, it will prey on any animal, preferably warm-blooded, that it can successfully bring down. This leads it into conflict with humans.
The Dingo's Impact on the Environment & Humans
The dingo is not a serious threat to the Australian habitat. Its unpopularity steams primarily for the following reasons:
• Dingos attack pastoral animals such as sheep and young cattle. This makes them unpopular with farmers and pastoralist. (Contrary to popular folklore, domestic animals such as sheep account
for only 1-7% of a dingo's diet).
• In areas populated by humans, dingos have been known to eat domestic pets such as cats and dogs.
• On rare occasion they have been reported to have attacked young children; seeing them too as a food source.
• They have attacked people who have come too close to them, feed them are foolishly tried to pet them.
• Since they will eat any animal indiscriminately it have also been blamed for the reduction in the population of some endangered animals such as the nailtail wallabies, koalas and tree kangaroos.
Dingos Aren't that Bad
To be fair to the dingo, some scientists have suggested that, it fills an important ecological niche. Being the only large carnivore left on mainland Australia it helps in keep the native kangaroo and wallaby populations in balance. This function was once fulfilled by the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) and Tasmanian devil, both of which became extinct on the mainland. Ironically their extinction may have been due to competition from the dingo. More importantly, it also eats other introduced feral animals such as the destructive rabbit, goat and wild pig.
The Dingo - An Endangered Species
Because of interbreeding with domestic dogs there is a high probability that the "pure" dingo breed may become extinct as a result of the dilution of the pure dingo gene pool and the eventual extinction of the dingo subspecies. For this reason the conservation status of the dingo is listed as vulnerable.
The Dingo Fence - Longest Fence in the World
The longest fence in the world is a dingo fence that stretches from Darling Downs in Queensland to Nundroo in South Australia; a distance of 5,614 kilometres (3,488 mi). It is also one of the longest man-made structures in the world. It was built between 1880 and 1885 to protect pastoral animals such and sheep and cattle from dingo attacks. The fence is believed to have been successful because there are hardly any dingos to the south of this fence where most of most productive grazing land is.
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