PEST control doesn't mean introducing new animals, writes XAVIER DUFF
So releasing dingoes and Tassie devils across the country could be the answer to our feral-animal problems?
Deakin University ecologist Euan Ritchie reckons they'll eat rabbits, cats and foxes quicker than you can say "what could possibly go wrong?"
I'm not sure about this. I'm pretty sure there are dingoes out there already. Something has been eating all those lambs, and it ain't Sam Kekovich.
Maybe the good doc is talking about the purebred dingo, which would eat the wild dog - a sort of dingo-domestic dog hybrid on steroids. I don't think the purebred stands a chance against something with the dingo's killer instinct and the appetite of a Labrador.
Dr Ritchie admits the dogs/dingoes will still eat sheep. He reckons the Government could buy farmers an alpaca or a Maremma dog to guard the sheep.
But it's a bit like asking a mouse to stand between an elephant and a pile of peanuts.
As for Tassie devils, we don't have them on the mainland - the name kind of gives you a hint. We haven't for 400 years. That's because the dingoes ate them all.
Picked the flaw yet? Once the dogs/dingoes have polished off the devils, they'll just go back to eating the sheep.
I reckon Dr Ritchie has watched too many Looney Tunes starring the cartoon Tassie devil Taz. Taz looks threatening, but I don't know whether the real thing is capable of killing a fox.
Anyway, devils are a bit lazy apparently, because they prefer to eat animals that are already dead. They'll clean up a carcass in no time - which could be a good thing when the dingoes run amok. At least the farms will be tidy.
I don't know, it all sounds a bit too much like Thomas Austin, who said in the 1860s: "This is a great country, but is severely lacking in cute, furry animals. What it needs is rabbits. What could possibly go wrong?"
Then some other bright spark imported foxes so the toffs who came out here with hunting jackets and horns had some use for them. When the foxes got out of control, old Tom no doubt said the good news was they'd eat the rabbits. But they preferred the tastier Australian wildlife and free-range lamb.
You reckon we'd have learned our lesson. But no, in the 1930s along came Queensland boffin Reg Mungomery.
Reg must have wagged school the day they taught Ten Interesting Feral Animal Facts, because in 1935, when sugar-cane growers had a bit of a problem with cane beetles, he said: "Let's bring in a huge toxic obnoxious amphibian from Hawaii to eat the beetles. What could possibly go wrong?"
The cane toads, of course, turned up their noses at the beetles and went straight to the quolls, snakes and frogs.
Mind you, Dr Ritchie is not the first to suggest a kooky solution to introduced pests and weeds.
This year Prof David Bowman, from the University of Tasmania, suggested we introduce elephants to northern Australia to eat gamba grass, a noxious weed.
Presumably if the elephants get out of control, the professor will suggest releasing some tigers.
You get the feeling ecologists, stumbling around for a solution to ferals, seem to be saying, "Hell, nothing else seems to be working, so let's give this hare-brained scheme a crack".
Here's an idea. Maybe Dr Ritchie could work on a cross between the dingo, the Tassie devil and a cannibal.
If it doesn't work and they don't eat the ferals, they self-destruct by eating themselves. What could possibly go wrong?
- Xavier Duff is a senior Weekly Times reporter