Australia is planning to use dingoes to kill wild goats, originally imported by the British as food for lighthouse keepers and sailors, which have infested islands and are destroying the natural habitat.
Four male dingoes will be taken to Pelorus Island in the Great Barrier Reef national park and allowed to roam free killing and eating the goats. Experts think it will take two years before the job is done and all the goats are exterminated (based on experiences elsewhere).
Their job done the dingoes will then be exterminated themselves by hunters. However when they did this 23 years ago – although the dingoes eradicated 3,000 goats in two years – it took ten years to track down all the dingoes which had turned on native wildlife once they’d seen off the goats. So this time there is a plan B.
All the dingoes will have a poison sac implanted in them which will burst in two years killing them.
Sounds a bit harsh but maybe the dingoes are happy to have an unfettered orgy of killing and eating before their time is up.
Australia has used biological control methods before when they tried to eradicate the Cane toad. They imported the Cane toad from Hawaii to control the Greyback cane beetle which was damaging sugar cane crops.
It had worked in Hawaii but didn’t in Australia for variety of reasons (explained here) and is now a plague almost impossible to eradicate.
Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere New Zealand has its own problems saving its native birds, 25 million of which are killed by predators every year, including the totemic Kiwi which loses 95% of its chicks to them.
Already the country has lost a third of its native birds such as eagles, wrens and the great moa, the world’s highest rate of bird extinction.
The government now plans to exterminate every animal that preys on native birds which means killing million s of rats, ferrets, stoats, possums and wild cats.
New Zealand was the last large land mass to be occupied by humans who were quickly followed by the predators. Maoris took Pacific rats there for food, Norwegian rats stood away on British sailing ships,, and British settlers took birds, fish and rabbits from home.
The rabbits thrived so stoats, ferrets and weasels were introduced to manage them. That project failed but the newly introduced species thrived on eggs and baby birds which previously had no natural predators,were ground-dwelling, and in some cases couldn’t even fly.
Rather than relying on biological control, this time the predators will be poisoned using sodium fluoroacetate known as 1080 which causes heart or respiratory failure. New Zealand is the world’s biggest user of this poison buying 80% of the world’s stock.
They have had success eradicating rats from more than 100 islands including South Georgia in the South Atlantic using helicopter dropped poison baits but never on such a large land mass.
John Key, the NZ Prime Minister said “This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world but we believe, if we all work together as a country, we can achieve it“