Dingo collars irk activists

A PROGRAM to track dingo movements on Fraser Island by putting electronic collars on the dogs has been condemned by animal activists.

The research is being done under the supervision of the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

With the balance between tourism and conservation under increasing scrutiny, DERM hopes to gather fresh data on dingo movements.

The collars will permit satellite tracking of the dingo, with its whereabouts logged every two hours. Their application has been defended by QPWS chief Andrea Leverington.

Over eight months, the data will help DERM develop systems to control factors including human intrusion into dingo habitat.

“In 2009 we announced an ongoing population study of the dingoes on Fraser Island,” Ms Leverington said.

“This is part of a program; the satellite tracking will help us understand their home range, the distance they move and the areas they frequent.

“We will get a sense of interaction with people on the island – we actually think there are a lot more dingoes on remote parts of the island.”

The president of Save Fraser Island Dingoes Inc, Malcolm Kilpatrick, said DERM's collars were not “best practice”.

“We have been contacted by people who have visited Fraser Island and come away disgusted at the size of the collars,” Mr Kilpatrick said.

“Why in the electronic age something smaller can't be used is hard to understand.

“We know that they have bear tracking programs in the states that use devices about the size of a postage stamp.”

Mr Kilpatrick described the collars as holding a substantial battery pack and two aerials.

He also expressed concern about the effect trapping, handling and attaching the collars would have on the dingoes.

DERM said of the 20 dingoes it planned to collar, 11 had already been trapped, collared and tagged.

A professional trapper has instructed rangers in the use of soft-jaw leg-hold traps.

DERM said the collars weighed 445g which included a pre-programmed release mechanism to cause the collar to drop off on a specified date.

The collars also have a struggle mechanism in case the animal gets snagged.

Ms Leverington said an animal ethics committee consisting of DERM senior scientists and external scientists from research organisations had approved the collars' use.

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