Wet Tropics maps aid dingo research

Damian Morrant from James Cook University attached GPS tracking collars to dingoes in three major study sites of Cairns, East Trinity and Gordonvale.

Data collected from the collars, and the Authority’s vegetation maps, enabled Damian to map home ranges, habitat occupancy, movements and activity patterns.

Damian described the Wet Tropics vegetation maps as very precise and the best available coverage for his type of research. Accurately defined vegetation boundaries are important for GPS tracking and patterns of habitat use because animal movements often follow vegetation edges.

Interestingly, dingoes were never recorded in the rainforest; and for 80% of the time they rested or slept in the drier woodland forests. They also returned to these sites which is consistent with permanent den sites. Damian also found that dingoes used the cane fields as hunting grounds.

Damian also employed some innovative approaches to gathering DNA data. He used a chemical attractant used in the USA to attract wild coyotes. The liquid was applied to bristly hair traps that the dingoes rolled on – leaving strands of their own hair to be collected for DNA recording. He also collected scats and collaborated with Cairns Regional Council in collecting stomach contents.
Studies of the dingo DNA determined the extent of swapping of domestic dog genes into the Wet Tropics dingo populations. Gene swapping is considered a major threat to dingoes as a pure sub-species in other parts of Australia.

Damian found that the Wet Tropics dingo populations appear to closely resemble pure bred dingoes. He attributed this to the healthy family groups of dingo in the region which are well provisioned with food and other resources. A healthy family group is very territorial and will actively exclude other dingoes or dogs.

Dogs, dingoes and hybrids may have very different movement patterns, social behaviour and predations rates on native fauna and livestock. 

Wet Tropics maps aid dingo research

Published: 16th Apr 2015

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