Release the Dingoes?

Could Australia's wild dingoes actually help save some of the continent's endangered species? One man thinks so. Professor Chris Dickman, of the Institute of Wildlife Research at the  University of Sydney, says that dingoes could help control the populations of invasive species like feral cats and red foxes which are killing off Australia's native wildlife. But releasing the dingoes to do what they do best won't be easy -- or necessarily popular.

You see, for more than 120 years, Australia has been criss-crossed by the Dingo Fence -- more than 3,300 miles of fencing designed to protect livestock by keeping dingoes completely out of certain parts of the country (specifically the fertile southeast corner). Dickman believes it may be time to tear down the Dingo Fence and suggests replacing it with a series of payment schemes to compensate farmers for predator-killed livestock (much like similar programs in the U.S.) and using donkeys and alpacas to guard sleeping sheep from dingoes on the prowl.

It's an idea worth exploring. "Where dingoes occur in big numbers, cats and foxes don't," Dickman told ABC Science Online (part of the Australian Broadcasting Company).

Dickman and his colleagues will present papers on the dingo and other topics at this week's Biodiversity Extinction Crisis Conference in Sydney.

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