Demise of the dingo

Demise of the dingo

Hot Topics in Ecology

Demise of the dingo

Dr Aaron Greenville, Prof. Glenda Wardle, University of Sydney, A. Prof. Euan Ritchie, Deakin University, Dr Thomas Newsome, University of Sydney
Dingo – killed and left on pole in 2013 (left) Thylacine last seen in wild in 1932 after three decades of lethal control (right). Dingo photograph by Aaron Greenville, thylacine photo taken ~1869, photographer unknown.

Because it threatens livestock, the native dingo Canis dingo is classified as a pest species across much of Australia. Barrier fencing, and lethal methods, such as 1080 poisoning and trapping and shooting, are used to control the dingo, which is the only remaining terrestrial, large-bodied (>10kg) top predator in mainland Australia. Dingo management therefore parallels persecution of the Tasmanian tiger: a top-predator that was hunted for its alleged impact on livestock. Dingo persecution has reduced the species' distribution and disrupts its social structure, potentially accelerating the demise of this species through hybridisation with feral domestic dogs. Whatever the genetic intermixing, it is clear that for at least ~5000 years dingoes have played a functional role in the Australian landscape. Top predators are now understood to be ecologically important in maintaining diversity. The loss or suppression of top predators can lead to additional extinctions through the food chain, and an increase of herbivores, cats and foxes that negatively impact native wildlife and ecological processes in Australia. An updated review of the literature on the ecological role of the dingo, confirms the following key points:

1. Dingoes kill and compete with cats and foxes, and alter the foraging behaviour of feral cats and foxes. This suppression of smaller predators can have net positive benefits for populations of threatened species.

2. Dingoes can control populations of exotic and overabundant native herbivores and omnivores (e.g. feral goats, feral pigs, and native kangaroos). Kangaroo numbers increase with rainfall and, when present, dingoes limit their population through predation. Importantly, dingoes can limit kangaroo numbers during droughts. This reduces grazing pressure on grasslands, improves soil nutrient levels and in some area can increase economic benefits to pastoralists.

3. Lethal control of dingoes can disrupt the social structure of packs that would otherwise limit dispersal, hybridisation and attacks on stock. Control of dingoes has been associated with increased, not decreased livestock loss in some areas.

4. Alternatives to lethal control and the dingo fence exist. Livestock guardian dogs can protect stock from dingo predation. This alternative is cost effective, providing a return on investment in 1 to 3 years, it is more humane, and the resultant benefits are more likely to be sustained in the longer term.


Hot Topic Lead Author: 
Name: Dr Aaron Greenville
Phone: 02 9351 4470

Name: Prof. Glenda Wardle
Phone: 02 9351 7113

Name: A.Prof. Euan Ritchie
Phone: 03 9251 7606

Name: Dr Thomas Newsome
Phone: 02 9351 4470

Date approved: 
Wednesday, March 28, 2018 - 20:13
ID Title Location Type
9476 Choquenot D. & Forsyth D. M. (2013) Exploitation ecosystems and trophic cascades in non-equilibrium systems: pasture – red kangaroo – dingo interactions in arid Australia. Oikos 122, 1292-306. Arid Australia Modelling. Simulation.
9477 Glen A. S. & Dickman C. R. (2005) Complex interactions among mammalian carnivores in Australia, and their implications for wildlife management. Biological Reviews 80, 387-401. Australia Review paper
9478 Glen A. S., Dickman C. R., SoulÉ M. E. & Mackey B. G. (2007) Evaluating the role of the dingo as a trophic regulator in Australian ecosystems. Austral Ecology 32, 492-501. Australia, excluding Tas. Review paper
9479 Johnson C. N., Isaac J. L. & Fisher D. O. (2007) Rarity of a top predator triggers continent-wide collapse of mammal prey: dingoes and marsupials in Australia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274, 341-6. Australia, excluding Tas. Pre-existing contrasts
9480 Johnson C. N. & VanDerWal J. (2009) Evidence that dingoes limit abundance of a mesopredator in eastern Australian forests. Journal of Applied Ecology 46, 641-6. Eastern NSW correlational with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
9481 Kennedy M., Phillips B. L., Legge S., Murphy S. A. & Faulkner R. A. (2012) Do dingoes suppress the activity of feral cats in northern Australia? Austral Ecology 37, 134-9. Central Kimberley of Western Australia and the Top End of the Northern Territory. Manipulative experiment
9482 Letnic M. & Crowther M. S. (2013) Patterns in the abundance of kangaroo populations in arid Australia are consistent with the Exploitation Ecosystems Hypothesis. Oikos 122, 761-9. Central Australia Manipulative experiment
9483 Letnic M., Crowther M. S. & Koch F. (2009) Does a top-predator provide an endangered rodent with refuge from an invasive mesopredator? Anim. Conserv. 12, 302-12. Strzelecki Desert Manipulative experiment
9484 Letnic M. & Dworjanyn S. A. (2011) Does a top predator reduce the predatory impact of an invasive mesopredator on an endangered rodent? Ecography 34, 827-35. Strzelecki Desert Manipulative experiment
9485 Letnic M., Greenville A., Denny E., Dickman C. R., Tischler M., Gordon C. & Koch F. (2011) Does a top predator suppress the abundance of an invasive mesopredator at a continental scale? Global Ecology and Biogeography 20, 343-53. Qld, WA and Pre-existing contrasts
9486 Letnic M. & Koch F. (2010) Are dingoes a trophic regulator in arid Australia? A comparison of mammal communities on either side of the dingo fence. Austral Ecology 35, 167-75. Strzelecki Desert Manipulative experiment
9487 Letnic M., Koch F., Gordon C., Crowther M. S. & Dickman C. R. (2009) Keystone effects of an alien top-predator stem extinctions of native mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276, 3249-56. Strzelecki Desert Manipulative experiment
9488 Letnic M., Ritchie E. G. & Dickman C. R. (2012) Top predators as biodiversity regulators: the dingo Canis lupus dingo as a case study. Biological Reviews 87, 390-413. Australia wide review paper
9489 Moseby K. E., Neilly H., Read J. L. & Crisp H. A. (2012) Interactions between a top order predator and exotic mesopredators in the Australian rangelands. International Journal of Ecology 2012. Roxby Downs, SA Manipulative experiment
9490 Ritchie E. G., Elmhagen B., Glen A. S., Letnic M., Ludwig G. & McDonald R. A. (2012) Ecosystem restoration with teeth: what role for predators? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 27, 265-71. Global review, with emphasis on dingoes review paper
9491 Ritchie E. G. & Johnson C. N. (2009) Predator interactions, mesopredator release and biodiversity conservation. Ecology Letters 12, 982-98. Global review, with emphasis on dingoes review paper
9492 van Bommel L. & Johnson C. N. (2012) Good dog! Using livestock guardian dogs to protect livestock from predators in Australia’s extensive grazing systems. Wildlife Research 39, 220-9. Australia. Case study Qld. survey
9493 Wallach A. D., Johnson C. N., Ritchie E. G. & O’Neill A. J. (2010) Predator control promotes invasive dominated ecological states. Ecology Letters 13, 1008-18. Arid Australia Manipulative experiment
9494 Wang Y. & Fisher D. O. (2012) Dingoes affect activity of feral cats, but do not exclude them from the habitat of an endangered macropod. Wildlife Research 39, 611-20. Taunton National Park(11 626 ha) in central Queensland Correlational with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
9495 Caughley G., Grigg G., Caughley J. & Hill G. (1980) Does dingo predation control the densities of kangaroos and emus? Wildlife Research 7, 1-12. SA, Qld and NSW border junction. Pre-existing contrasts ("natural experiment")
9496 Eldridge S. R., Shakeshaft B. J. & Nano T. J. (2002) The impact of wild dog control on cattle, native and introduced herbivores and introduced predators in central Australia. Unpublished report to the Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra. Andado station, Lyndavale station and Umbearra station. Manipulative experiment
9497 Allen B. L., Fleming P. J. S., Allen L. R., Engeman R. M., Ballard G. & Leung L. K. P. (2013) As clear as mud: A critical review of evidence for the ecological roles of Australian dingoes. Biological Conservation 159, 158-74. Australia -wide Review paper
9498 Wallach A.D, Murray B.R and O’Neill A.J.(2009). Can threatened species survive wherethe top predator is absent? Biological Conservation 142, 43-52. Flinders Ranges, Ferries McDonald CP, Bakara CP and Innes NP. correlation with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
9499 Corbett L. (2001) The conservation status of the dingo Canis lupus dingo in Australia, with particular reference to New South Wales: threats to pure dingoes and potential solutions. In: A Symposium on the Dingo. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales Australia-wide correlational with no pre-determined gradient or contrast,
9500 Newsome T. M., Greenville A. C., Cirovic D., Dickman C. R., Johnson C. N., Krofel M., Letnic M., Ripple W. J., Ritchie E. G., Stoyanov S. & Wirsing A. J. (2017) Top predators constrain mesopredator distributions. Nat Commun 8, 15469. Australia, Europe and North America Pre-existing contrasts ("natural experiment")
9501 Morris T. & Letnic M. (2017) Removal of an apex predator initiates a trophic cascade that extends from herbivores to vegetation and the soil nutrient pool. Proc Biol Sci 284, 20170111. Strzelecki Desert, Australia Pre-existing contrasts ("natural experiment")
9502 Prowse T. A. A., Johnson C. N., Cassey P., Bradshaw C. J. A., Brook B. W. & du Toit J. (2015) Ecological and economic benefits to cattle rangelands of restoring an apex predator. J. Appl. Ecol. 52, 455-66. NSW Simulation
9503 Newsome T. M., Ballard G.-A., Crowther M. S., Dellinger J. A., Fleming P. J. S., Glen A. S., Greenville A. C., Johnson C. N., Letnic M., Moseby K. E., Nimmo D. G., Nelson M. P., Read J. L., Ripple W. J., Ritchie E. G., Shores C. R., Wallach A. D., Wirsing Western NSW Review paper
9504 Gordon C. E., Feit A., Gruber J. & Letnic M. (2015) Mesopredator suppression by an apex predator alleviates the risk of predation perceived by small prey. Proc. R. Soc. Biol. Sci. Ser. B 282, 20142870. Strzelecki Desert Pre-existing contrasts ("natural experiment") and Manipulative experiment
9505 van Bommel L. & Johnson C. N. (2015) How guardian dogs protect livestock from predators: territorial enforcement by Maremma sheepdogs. Wildl. Res. 41, 662-72. north-eastern Victoria, Australia Manipulative experiment
9506 van Bommel L. & Johnson C. N. (2016) Livestock guardian dogs as surrogate top predators? How Maremma sheepdogs affect a wildlife community. Ecology and Evolution, 1-11. north-eastern Victoria, Australia Manipulative experiment
9507 van Bommel L. & Johnson C. N. (2014) Where Do Livestock Guardian Dogs Go? Movement Patterns of Free-Ranging Maremma Sheepdogs. PLoS ONE 9, e111444. north-eastern Victoria, Australia Manipulative experiment
9508 Greenville A. C., Wardle G. M., Tamayo B. & Dickman C. R. (2014) Bottom-up and top-down processes interact to modify intraguild interactions in resource-pulse environments. Oecologia 175, 1349-58. Simpson Desert, QLD correlational with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
9509 Colman N. J., Gordon C. E., Crowther M. S. & Letnic M. (2014) Lethal control of an apex predator has unintended cascading effects on forest mammal assemblages. Proc. R. Soc. Biol. Sci. Ser. B 281, 20133094. South-eastern NSW manipulative experiment
9510 Gordon C. E., Eldridge D. J., Ripple W. J., Crowther M. S., Moore B. D. & Letnic M. (2017) Shrub encroachment is linked to extirpation of an apex predator. J. Anim. Ecol. 86, 147-57. Strzelecki Desert Pre-existing contrasts ("natural experiment") and Manipulative experiment
9511 Colman N. J., Crowther M. S. & Letnic M. (2015) Macroecological patterns in mammal abundances provide evidence that an apex predator shapes forest ecosystems by suppressing herbivore and mesopredator abundance. J. Biogeogr. 42, 1975-85. South-eastern NSW correlational with no pre-determined gradient or contrast
9512 Greg Campbell, Andrew Coffey, Heather Miller, John L. Read, Anthony Brook, Peter J.S. Fleming , Peter Bird, Steve Eldridge and Benjamin L. Allen. (2018) Dingo baiting did not reduce fetal/calf loss in beef cattle in northern South Australia. Animal Produc National manipulative experiment
9513 Wallach AD, Dekker AH, Lurgi M, Montoya JM, Fordham DA, Ritchie EG (2016) Trophic cascades in 3D: network analysis reveals how apex predators structure ecosystems. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 8: 135-142 NA Modelling
9514 TS Doherty and EG Ritchie (2017) Stop Jumping the Gun: A Call for Evidence-Based Invasive Predator Management. Conservation Letters 10, 15-22. NA Review
9515 van Eeden LM, Crowther MS, Dickman CR, Macdonald DW, Ripple WJ, Ritchie EG and Newsome TM (2017) Managing conflict between large carnivores and livestock. Conservation Biology, 32: 26-34. Global Review
9516 CN Johnson and AR Wallach (2016) The virtuous circle: predator-friendly farming and ecological restoration in Australia. Restoration Ecology 24, 821-826. Australia Opinion article
9475 Brook L. A., Johnson C. N. & Ritchie E. G. (2012) Effects of predator control on behaviour of an apex predator and indirect consequences for mesopredator suppression. Journal of Applied Ecology 49, 1278-86. North and central Australia pre-existing contrasts and manipulative experiment.