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Dingo Sanctuary Open Days 2018 - July to September

The Dingo Discovery Centre will hold their “2018 Open Days” from July 7 until September 23, every Saturday and Sunday. This is a unique chance to learn about dingoes in their natural environment, interact with this year's new pups and some friendly adults and of course snap lots of pictures!

One of the highlights of the Melbourne Dog Lovers Show is always the Australian Dingo Foundation stand where you can interact (for a gold coin donation) with a crowd-friendly dingo by handing out a small treat.


Following our first Dingo encounter, we spoke with Lyn Watson, owner of the Dingo Discovery and Research Centre. She shared with us her knowledge of dingoes and her passion for conservation whilst also dispelling some common myths!

Q1.  When did your passion for Dingoes start and what makes them so special?
 

Dingoes have always been a species I was drawn to. Even as a very young child, I had an empathy towards them” confides Mrs. Watson. In those days it was illegal to own a Dingo so I grew up with “surrogate dingoes”- dogs! 

Ever since moving out of home in 1959, I was mesmerised by the exotic Afghan Hound so I became one of Australia’s first breeders and regular exhibitors of these time-consuming canines. Looking back, I see them as “dingoes in drag” for they share so many characteristics with our native dog, disguised by a silken flowing robe and drop ears! They think the same, they behave similarly and underneath the coats are even built similarly. Their metabolism is certainly similar.

Over the next 20 years I was sufficiently curious and studious to qualify to judge all recognised pure breeds and do so regularly and internationally still. I bred over 150 champions across many breeds – Golden Retrievers, Italian Greyhounds, Greyhounds as well as my beloved Afghans. I also worked as a groomer and vet assistant, sucking in every opportunity to learn about the inside and outside of dogs!

Q2. How was the Dingo Sanctuary and Research Centre started?

When the day finally came that I could legally own a dingo, and a pair was gifted to me, I came to them with a broad knowledge and lots of experience to apply. 
Two eventually became eight and we decided that we needed to expand our horizons with a focus on protecting the species whilst educating the public whenever possible about dingo realities and facts.  
Pepper is a female "Alpine" ecotype Dingo
We decided to showcase the dingoes in the best possible light we could, whilst giving these animals the best possible life in captivity in a safe and beautiful environment where people could respect the dingo and want to learn more after their encounters here. Time for the world of pure bred dogs became less available and we eventually moved into almost full-time dingo caring and learning.

The Discovery Centre in Toolern Vale (nestled in the peaceful foothills of the Macedon ranges in Victoria) was opened in 1999 and represents our life work. The property was bequeathed to the Australian Dingo Foundation and is meant to be a haven for the original dingo gene pool for all time.

There are a couple of sister sanctuaries around Australia with whom we are on good terms and we exchange both information and blood lines. Bargo in NSW is one of those and there are a couple of small private reserves which we respect and help as we can. There needs to be many more in the future to be anywhere near secure for the preservation of our dingo.

Q3. How many resident dingoes live on the property?

Currently we have forty dingoes aged from one year all the way up to twenty years of age. In addition, we now have our latest crop of cubs, all of whom are spoken for as they were ordered months before the season started back in March!

Whilst our colony consists of mostly "Alpine" type, and the DNA of all dingoes is virtually identical, we do keep the different strains (Northern and Desert) separate in our breeding program.

The Sanctuary is proud to have provided the beautiful examples of Australian Dingo now being exhibited by major zoos and fauna parks worldwide.



Q4. How does the Dingo Discovery Centre operate day to day?

"The facility is fully operated and administered by volunteers: not one person gets paid from top to bottom! The only way this can happen is thanks to a simply smashing team" explains Ms. Watson. "We have people coming in as day to day carers, maintenance, gardeners or trainers or as fundraisers. Having said that, we could always use more help, especially in the fundraising department!"

Q5. Tell us more about the upcoming “Open Days”? When can people come and what are the rules?

The Sanctuary is situated only 35 minutes from the CBD to Melbourne’s North­east, in the Shire of Melton, abutting the Pyrete State Forest, only 30 minutes from Melbourne Airport.

Year round we are open to private tour bookings where encounters with friendly adult dingoes are offered.
This year, our Open Days at the Dingo Sanctuary will be held every Saturday and Sunday from July 7 until September 23 and sessions can be booked for either 11am or 2pm


You will be treated to a full visit where you can learn about the dingoes with the latest information available then you get to encounter and interact with friendly adult and their babies on their turf. Children must be over 7 years to participate in these encounters.
Kangan Institute vet nursing students interacting with pups at the Dingo Sanctuary (October 2017)

You can also take pictures, enjoy a snack or even purchase a souvenir from our shop. Places are limited so you will need to be quick to secure your preferred date/time by clicking here.

Q6. What else can people do to support the Dingo Sanctuary?


Anyone can support us by running a fundraiser for us: you can sell chocolates, run a car boot sale, throw a sausage sizzle or simply stay in touch with us by following and sharing our Facebook page – Australian Dingo Foundation. It is based on education first and foremost and you will see all the news concerning the Sanctuary.

You could sponsor one of our resident sanctuary dingoes, at the cost of only three espressos per week. We are a registered charity so why not make a tax deductible donation before the end of this financial year?


Q7. What are your thoughts on having a Dingo as a pet?

We do not recommend keeping dingoes as family pets and certainly never as beginners’ dogs. 
They are way too smart, independent, “cat-like” and too difficult to manage in a normal household. 
Kimba loves living on the Northern Beaches, Sydney
Whilst there are some rare jewels of owners out there, who have the space, the facilities and the demeanour to do justice to a companion dingo, this is a project that will go on for up to 20 years and for most people, that is altogether too confining.

Never will a dingo be happy to be shut off from the world around it or if you’re available only for short interactions. Their extreme intelligence needs constant stimulation, their physical attributes require free space to stretch out. People who can succeed with a dingo however will never be able to go back to a mundane domestic dog full-time, and be fulfilled.

The legal requirements vary in each State according to the varying power over legislation held by their Primary Industries politicians and departments. Permits can be obtained for dingo ownership in the NT and ACT. 


WA permits it under similar conditions to domestic dogs, whilst SA, QLD and Tasmania bar the ownership of dingoes altogether.
The total deregulation in most of NSW has led to the proliferation of unsuitable ownerships and an even high rate of attendant problems.

Dingoes generally make poor re-homing subjects as they form a lifetime bond with their owners and territory in the first sixteen weeks and after puberty it is rarely possible for them to form new bonds.

Our preference is for the Victorian system where a permit is necessary, requiring an escape proof, inspected enclosure as a basic requirement before you can keep a pure dingo.


Q8. How do you feel about the baiting program of wild dingoes with the “1080 poison”?

Baiting with 1080 poison is a despicable means of "control". It is comprehensively cruel and known to affect more target species than initially planned. Dingoes are way more useful when left unmolested in our bush domains. They definitely prefer rabbit, possum, feral cat, wallaby and small kangaroos, or wild pig and even grasshoppers to mutton or lamb, which they cannot metabolise due to the high fat content. Every dietary study since 1854 has shown that to be the case. 

Dingoes require only 400 - 500 grams of food per day, and as true apex predators, prefer it fresh. That is why it is false to say they are pack animals: they are more likely to be loners, or a couple, or at most a small family group.

We are appalled that ignorance about our native apex predator prevails and that lethal response to a mere sighting is the order of the day, when non lethal deterrents are cheaper, simpler, and more effective at maintaining healthy eco-systems for biodiversity. 1080 has the potential to become the only recourse when the day we kill the last dingo dawns. That will be the worst extinction of all. 

That Australians, whether graziers or not, should seem to be so set on achieving total extinction of our dingo should bring a chill to every animal lover's heart. The only way to conserve our native dingo is to let your local member know in no uncertain terms that you want him protected like every other native Australian animal.

10 EDUCATIONAL FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN DINGO

1. The dingo arrived in Australia about 10,000 years ago from the Asian mainland.

2. The first European to sight a dingo was William Dampier, a Dutch explorer in the late 1600’s.
Wild Tropical Dingo from the Kimberley region - Photo Credit: Kerrie Goodchild

3. The DNA of all dingoes is virtually identical but you can differentiate 3 geographical types: Alpine, Desert and Northern.

4. There are three basic coat colours: ginger, black/tan, and white.

5. The average weight of a male dingo is 15kg.

6. 
The average litter size is 5 cubs.

7. A dingo must drink an average of 12% of their body weight in water per day in summer.

8. A dingo does not bark but rather howls melodically.



Teddy celebrates his 20th birthday in style!
9. Dingoes are NEVER aggressive: they will always flee before confrontation however they will protect their partner or their young with courage.

10. In the wild, dingoes live somewhere between 5 to 10 years, but in captivity they can live upwards of 18 to 20 years.

To learn more, please visit www.dingofoundation.org.au

We would like to thank Mrs. Lyn Watson from the Australiabn Dingo Foundation for her assistance in writing this article.
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