Do dingoes protect Australia's small mammal fauna from introduced mesopredators? Time to consider history and recent events

Brian D. Cooke, Ramon C. Soriguer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Proponents of the idea that dingoes protect mid-sized native mammals by suppressing introduced foxes and feral cats often use observations made on either side of Australia's dingo fence for support. However, many mid-sized mammals disappeared around 1900 when dingoes had increased, cats were present but foxes were yet to arrive, and before newly built fences to manage rabbits and dingoes were amalgamated to form the current dingo barrier fence. By concentrating on predation to explain small mammal losses, alternatives including the spread of introduced rabbits are ignored. This is despite rabbits being both severe environmental pests and the main prey of all three predators. Since rabbit haemorrhagic disease was introduced 20 years ago, rabbits have been less abundant and in that time several native mammals deemed to be protected by dingoes have expanded their range, even into dingo-free areas where cats and foxes are not suppressed. Historic and recent evidence therefore weakens the case that dingoes are of paramount importance in protecting small native mammals. Changes in dingo management, ostensibly to protect endangered native fauna, would be premature until all interacting factors are critically considered. A competitive predator model should not be applied without considering other equally plausible explanations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-106
Number of pages12
JournalFood Webs
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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