Category Archives: Link

The Conversation: Ever wondered who would win in a fight between a dingo and a wolf? An expert explains

Image credit: Wes Mountain via The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Imagine two of the world’s most iconic canids – a dingo and a wolf – head to head in a fight. Who would win?

Before we examine the combatants in more detail, we need to answer an important question first, which wolf and which dingo? Taxonomy – the way we describe, name and classify Earth’s biodiversity – remains contentious for both animals.

Dingoes are recognised as a species in their own right by some, but not others. And, dingoes are quite different in their size and appearance, depending on whether they live in Australia’s alpine and forested areas, deserts, or tropical regions.

As for wolves, there are North American (“Grey”), Mexican, Eurasian, Himalayan, Asiatic, Indian and Tibetan, Red, African golden, Ethiopian and even “ghost wolves” – yes, ghost wolves! Ghost wolves are species we can recognise from the past using genetic information, but they no longer survive and no fossils are known to exist.

And then there are “wolves” that aren’t wolves at all: the fox-like maned wolf in South America, and the gargantuan, now-extinct dire wolf.

For the purposes of this battle, let’s assume it’s between a grey wolf and an alpine dingo.

Why do dogs, dingoes and wolves fight?

For wild canids, fights occur for many reasons, within and between species when they overlap. Wolves and dingoes fight for mates, to attain dominance within packs, and to establish and maintain their territories.

So, let’s get to know each opponent a little better.

Dingoes and wolves are both social and intelligent species, capable of complex behaviours and problem solving.

Grey wolves are what we call hyper-carnivores, feeding predominantly on other animals, in many cases large prey such as deer, elk, moose and bison.

Dingoes are omnivores with a broad, varied diet. They eat everything from fruits, to invertebrates, to small and large vertebrates – think lizards, birds, wombats, wallabies, possums, kangaroos, and feral animals like goats and deer. Dingoes will also scavenge food and carcasses.

Prior to European invasion, dingoes likely occupied all of mainland Australia.

Aside from humans, it’s thought the grey wolf was once the world’s most widespread mammal, where it, and its subspecies, occurred across much of Europe, Asia, and North and Central America. But, like with dingoes, humans have caused substantial population and range decline of wolves.

The battle: terrain is crucial

The terrain of the arena for our combatants would be crucial. Dingoes and wolves are capable of moving at great speeds, sustained for long periods of time, especially in open country. Both can reach top speeds in the range of 50-60 kilometres per hour!

However, dingoes arguably have the advantage in tight spots, in terms of their much smaller size, greater agility and flexibility, and climbing abilities. Dingoes typically weigh between 15 and 20 kilograms, while grey wolves are usually in the range of 30-65kg, and up to around 80kg for some males.

Dingoes have been recorded vertically jumping 2 metres and climbing fences, making them quite cat-like in many respects. So, if the battle occurs among many obstacles and on steep terrain, this will give dingoes an edge.

But if the fight is in the open, the much heavier, taller, and longer wolves will be too much for dingoes. They also pack a heavier bite quotient (bite force relative to body mass) of 136 as compared to the dingo’s 108.

Having said that, wolves are much taller than dingoes, around 65-80 centimetres and 45-60cm at their shoulders, respectively. So it’s possible a wily dingo could dash under the legs of a tall wolf and launch an attack on the vulnerable underbelly.

What about pack vs pack?

The final factor to consider is whether the fight is simply one dingo vs one wolf. Both can occur as individuals or in packs.

Dingoes are typically found alone, in pairs or in small packs of a few individuals, but occasionally can be found in much larger, less socially cohesive groups of ten or more when food resources are plentiful.

Wolves, on the other hand, are often found in groups of between five and ten, but much larger packs of 20 or more can also occur.

I spoke to Lyn Watson, who runs the Dingo Discovery and Research Centre. She says dingoes are “flight, rather than fight, canids”. This is wise behaviour, as dingoes are small in number and size and can’t rely on a large pack, like wolves sometimes can, to substitute them should they become injured in a fight.

She goes on to say that from her 30 years of observations, female dingoes are particularly deadly.

While dingoes are small, bonded pairs will fight in a coordinated way. Males fight in traditional neck and throat grabs, or “elbow”, but their bonded other has a completely different mode – and it’s deadly.

The female will stay at the periphery then dart into the soft parts of the combatant that is threatening her mate. She aims to maim – and does so, targeting the most “sensitive” of areas, enough said!

So if it’s pack vs pack, wolves will be far too strong. But if a single wolf was unlucky enough to come across a pack of dingoes, the tide could turn strongly in favour of dingoes.

Learning to live together

Even though wolves and dingoes fight in the wild, despite common perceptions, they generally pose a very small risk to people, especially if we adhere to advice such as not feeding them.

Domestic and feral dogs pose a far greater risk to us. It’s estimated that around the world, dogs bite and injure tens of millions of people annually. In the US alone, it’s thought around 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.

Of course, in reality wolves and dingoes will never fight each other in the wild. The greatest threat they both face is the ongoing destruction of their habitats and widespread direct persecution from humans (trapping, poisoning, shooting, and exclusion from areas), often aimed at protecting livestock.

Like other apex predators, dingoes and wolves have critical roles in our ecosystems and, in many cases, have deep cultural significance for Indigenous people. We must find more ethical and sustainable ways to share our world.

This article is part of the “Who would win?” series, where wildlife experts dream up hypothetical battles between predators (all in the name of science).
The Conversation

The Conversation: Destroying vegetation along fences and roads could worsen our extinction crisis — yet the NSW government just allowed it

By Euan Ritchie (Deakin University), Ben Moore (Western Sydney University), Jen Martin (The University of Melbourne), Mark Hall (Western Sydney University), Megan C Evans (UNSW), and Ross Crates (Australian National University).

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What do koalas, barking owls, greater gliders, southern rainbow skinks, native bees, and regent honeyeaters all have in common? Like many native species, they can all be found in vegetation along fences and roadsides outside formal conservation areas.

They may be relatively small, but these patches and strips conserve critical remnant habitat and have disproportionate conservation value worldwide. They represent the last vestiges of once-expansive tracts of woodland and forests, long lost to the chainsaw or plough.

And yet, the NSW government last week made it legal for rural landholders to clear vegetation on their properties, up to 25 metres from their property boundaries, without approval. This radical measure is proposed to protect people and properties from fires, despite the lack of such an explicit recommendation from federal and state-based inquiries into the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.

This is poor environmental policy that lacks apparent consideration or justification of its potentially substantial ecological costs. It also gravely undermines the NSW government’s recent announcement of a plan for “zero extinction” within the state’s national parks, as the success of protected reserves for conservation is greatly enhanced by connection with surrounding “off-reserve” habitat.

Small breaks in habitat can have big impacts

A 25m firebreak might sound innocuous, but when multiplied by the length of property boundaries in NSW, the scale of potential clearing and impacts is alarming, and could run into the hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

Some plants, animals and fungi live in these strips of vegetation permanently. Others use them to travel between larger habitat patches. And for migratory species, the vegetation provides crucial refuelling stops on long distance journeys.

For example, the roadside area in Victoria’s Strathbogie Ranges shown below is home to nine species of tree-dwelling native mammals: two species of brushtail possums, three species of gliders (including threatened greater gliders), common ringtail possums, koalas, brush-tailed phascogales, and agile antenchinus (small marsupials).

Many of these species depend on tree hollows that can take a hundred years to form. If destroyed, they are effectively irreplaceable.

Creating breaks in largely continuous vegetation, or further fragmenting already disjointed vegetation, will not only directly destroy habitat, but can severely lower the quality of adjoining habitat.

This is because firebreaks of 25m (or 50m where neighbouring landholders both clear) could prevent the movement and dispersal of many plant and animal species, including critical pollinators such as native bees.

An entire suite of woodland birds, including the critically endangered regent honeyeater, are threatened because they depend on thin strips of vegetation communities that often occur inside fence-lines on private land.

For instance, scientific monitoring has shown five pairs of regent honeyeaters (50% of all birds located so far this season) are nesting or foraging within 25m of a single fence-line in the upper Hunter Valley. This highlights just how big an impact the loss of one small, private location could have on a species already on the brink of extinction.

But it’s not just regent honeyeaters. The management plan for the vulnerable glossy black cockatoo makes specific recommendation that vegetation corridors be maintained, as they’re essential for the cockatoos to travel between suitable large patches.

Native bee conservation also relies on the protection of remnant habitat adjoining fields. Continued removal of habitat on private land will hinder chances of conserving these species.

Disastrous clearing laws

The new clearing code does have some regulations in place, albeit meagre. For example, on the Rural Fire Service website, it says the code allows “clearing only in identified areas, such as areas which are zoned as Rural, and which are considered bush fire prone”. And according to the RFS boundary clearing tool landowners aren’t allowed to clear vegetation near watercourses (riparian vegetation).

Even before introducing this new code, NSW’s clearing laws were an environmental disaster. In 2019, The NSW Audit Office found:

clearing of native vegetation on rural land is not effectively regulated [and] action is rarely taken against landholders who unlawfully clear native vegetation.

The data back this up. In 2019, over 54,500 hectares were cleared in NSW. Of this, 74% was “unexplained”, which means the clearing was either lawful (but didn’t require state government approval), unlawful or not fully compliant with approvals.

Landholders need to show they’ve complied with clearing laws only after they’ve already cleared the land. But this is too late for wildlife, including plant species, many of which are threatened.

Landholders follow self-assessable codes, but problems with these policies have been identified time and time again — they cumulatively allow a huge amount of clearing, and compliance and enforcement are ineffective.

We also know, thanks to various case studies, the policy of “offsetting” environmental damage by improving biodiversity elsewhere doesn’t work.

So, could the federal environment and biodiversity protection law step in if habitat clearing gets out of hand? Probably not. The problem is these 25m strips are unlikely to be referred in the first place, or be considered a “significant impact” to trigger the federal law.

The code should be amended

Nobody disputes the need to keep people and their assets safe against the risks of fire. The code should be amended to ensure clearing is only permitted where a genuinely clear and measurable fire risk reduction is demonstrated.

Granting permission to clear considerable amounts of native vegetation, hundreds if not thousands of metres away from homes and key infrastructure in large properties is hard to reconcile, and it seems that no attempt has been made to properly justify this legislation.

We should expect that a comprehensive assessment of the likely impacts of a significant change like this would inform public debate prior to decisions being made. But to our knowledge, no one has analysed, or at least revealed, how much land this rule change will affect, nor exactly what vegetation types and wildlife will likely be most affected.

A potentially devastating environmental precedent is being set, if other regions of Australia were to follow suit. The environment and Australians deserve better.
The Conversation

YouTube: Carnivore conservation needs evidence-based livestock protection

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Biology reveals certain nonlethal methods are effective for managing predators in agricultural landscapes. Twenty-one authors from 10 nations reviewed 114 peer-reviewed scientific studies measuring the effectiveness of lethal and non-lethal methods for reducing carnivore predation on livestock. Livestock guardian dogs, livestock enclosures and fladry all were scientifically shown to be effective conflict deterrents.

 

Reblog: Minister, why is the dingo no longer ‘fauna’ ?

ConservationBytes.com

dead dingoSo, a few of us have just submitted a letter contesting the Western Australia Government’s recent decision to delist dingoes as ‘fauna’ (I know — what the hell else could they be?). The letter was organised brilliantly by Dr Kylie Cairns (University of New South Wales), and she and the rest of the signatories have agreed to reproduce the letter in full here on ConservationBytes.com. If you feel so compelled, please voice your distaste of this decision officially by contacting the Minister (details below).

CJA Bradshaw

Honourable Stephen Dawson MLC
Minister for Environment; Disability Services
Address: 12th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street, WEST PERTH WA 6005
(minister.dawson@dpc.wa.gov.au)

cc: Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (biodiversity@dbca.wa.gov.au)
cc: Brendan Dooley (brendan.dooley@dpc.wa.gov.au)

Dear Minister,

The undersigned welcome the opportunity to comment on and recommend alteration of the proposed section (9)(2) order of the Biodiversity Conservation Act…

View original post 1,247 more words

Capstone Editing: The trouble with academic grant applications

It’s time to look at the way academic grants are awarded. Image: Shutterstock

Regular successful grants are crucial for academic career advancement. Grants fund research, research leads to publications, and publications result in job security and promotion. But the likelihood of success is low, particularly for early-career researchers. Last year, the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Projects, and National Health and Medical Research Council grants had a success rate around 18%, and ARC Linkage Projects around 30%.

A huge amount of effort is being dedicated to writing grants with very little chance of success.

How can we make this system better? My suggestions include prioritising funding for early-career researches, an expression-of-interest system to gauge the success of proposals, transparent and detailed feedback to unsuccessful applicants, and changing the timing of grant season so that is more family-friendly.

Read more on the Capstone Editing blog.

Capstone Editing: Crowd funding your research

Is crowd funding the future of grants for science and the arts?

I’ve successfully crowd funded two research projects: The Big Roo Count and Papua New Guinea’s mountain mammals, and learnt a few things along the way.

As well as an alternative source of income for research, crowd funding allows direct and immediate contact with the public. You carry them along on the way with you, which is how science should be.

Read more on the Capstone Editing blog.

Loose laws threaten Australia’s wildlife

Kookaburras, koalas and kangaroos — Australia is well known for its charismatic animals and vast, seemingly untamable, wild spaces. But throughout the country, the national parks and reserves that protect these unique animals and ecosystems have come under increasing threat. New rules and relaxed regulations, which bolster immediate economic growth, are putting pressure on Australia’s already-threatened biodiversity.

Read more at Mongabay.com