Dingoes at risk of extinction

08 Mar, 2004 06:41 AM
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Within 50 years Australia's only wild dog, the iconic dingo, is facing its greatest threat to date - the domestic dog.

After surviving more than 200 years of persecution from shooting, trapping and poisoning, the true-blue dingo is slowly disappearing due to a dilution of its native gene pool by inter-breeding with domestic dogs gone feral.

Research by Dr Alan Wilton, a geneticist at the University of NSW, has used DNA to confirm previous conclusions from skulls that if cross-breeding continues, dingoes could reach extinction within 50 years.

Finding a purebred dingo in the wild these days is a difficult undertaking.

Wildlife ecologist Dr Laurie Corbett of Earth-Water-Life Sciences Pty Ltd, and previously CSIRO, has examined skulls from seven major regions and found that only 74 percent of the 180 skulls examined could be classified as dingo and the proportion of hybrids is increasing.

Should dingoes be managed to conserve their purity or should it be accepted that their genetic integrity has already been lost?

These questions, and the research to support the debate, are discussed in ECOS, the latest edition of CSIRO's magazine on sustainability in the environment and industry.

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