Publication Details

Brookes, V., Degeling, C., van Eeden, L. & Ward, M. (2020). What is a dingo? The phenotypic classification of dingoes by aboriginal and torres strait islander residents in northern australia. Animals, 10 (7), 1-12.


© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Dingo classification and management is complicated by hybridisation with domestic dogs. Northern Australia is a relatively high-risk zone for a rabies incursion, and in the event of an incursion, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who reside in this region would prioritise the protection of dingoes. Therefore, the classification of dingoes in this context is important. Twelve pictures of canids with features associated with both dingoes and domestic dogs from camera traps in the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA), northern Queensland, were shown to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rangers (n = 3), biosecurity officers (n = 2), environmental health workers (n = 2), and residents (n = 39) in the NPA. Nearly all pictures (10/12) were classified as dingo or domestic dog (none as hybrid) and two were inconclusive (no overall agreement). Dingoes were consistently identified as medium to large-framed dogs, with a long nose, pointed ears, narrow abdomen, a bushy or feathered tail, and smooth coats of a single base colour. Some hybrid features were acceptable, including sable coats, lack of white tail tip or feet, and curled tail. These findings are a preliminary guide for identifying canids in the NPA region for whom management might be controversial. Building on this approach via further consultation with residents is needed to inform rabies response policy. Our approach using locally acquired camera trap pictures could also be extended to other regions in which dingoes have value but their management is controversial.



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