North Queensland’s Hinchinbrook Shire Council this month began releasing dingoes on to Pelorus Island as part of a radical pest control program. The program aims to control about 300 feral goats after methods such as shooting them from helicopters failed.
Ben Allen a wildlife ecologist from University of Southern Queensland has been monitoring the goats that currently inhabit the island. The ecologist has been observing the native flora and fauna damage that the goats have inflicted to the island.
The Australian and Landline reported that two desexed dingoes have been released on the island. The dogs have had capsules containing 1080 poison inserted under their skins. This is designed to dissolve in about two years to release the fatal doses.
Dr Allen said the dingoes used were captured locally. He said the program offered animals that would usually be culled a temporary stay of execution.
This is the second time a program like that has been used in Queensland. If it were successful, Dr Allen said, he expected other authorities in Australia and elsewhere that were struggling to eradicate feral goats would consider programs using similar predators, such as coyotes and wolves.
“People are very interested in the outcome of the project,” Dr Allen said. “Worldwide, goats are the most destructive pests on islands.”
“Wild Dogs are responsible for goodness knows how many extinctions of native animals. Very few people, if anybody, have used a mammal or a vertebrate predator as a biocontrol for a vertebrate prey.”
Dr Allen said the dingoes were expected to do the job within 12 months, after which shooters would be sent to “humanely euthanase” the dogs, before the 1080 capsules — “the fail-safe” — became effective.
Hinchinbrook Mayor Ramon Jayo said he had received abusive phone calls after news of the council’s plan spread. His council’s Facebook page had been inundated with complaints.
Mr Jayo said“There is a greater good here and the greater good is that we have an island that is disappearing right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
“The goats are declared pests under state law, as are the dingoes. When you have a pristine environment and your options are limited, what do you do?”
The program has government approval but RSPCA Queensland yesterday spoke out against the plan and is seeking a meeting with Biosecurity Queensland to discuss its concerns.
“While we accept feral animals need to be controlled, we would like to see other avenues exhausted before resorting to this ‘solution’, which could inflict pain and suffering on both goats and dingoes alike,’’ said RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty.