Officials in Queensland, Australia, are releasing dingoes onto an island to kill the feral goats who are damaging the local vegetation. The dingoes, in turn, have been implanted with “time-bombs”, as their handlers describe the poison pills that will kill them when they’ve done the job.
Hard to know where to begin with this kind of “conservation” plan. If you’d read it in The Onion, you might have found it quite funny as a piece of satire and fiction … except in this case it’s real.
How the goats got there: In May 1787, a fleet of 11 ships set sail from England to found a penal colony in Australia. The British government had deemed this newfound continent to be well-suited for dumping its criminals – far away, escape-proof, and largely uninhabited except for “savages”.
Earlier expeditions to Down Under had run into trouble on the Great Barrier Reef, so the officers of this fleet decided to release some of the goats they were carrying onto some of the islands so the animals could reproduce and serve as a continuing food source for lighthouse keepers and shipwrecked sailors.
One of those islands, Pelorus Island, is still largely uninhabited by humans, and without any natural predators the goats have multiplied and now considered an “invasive species” that is doing much harm to the original ecosystem.
Ramon Jayo, the Mayor of Hinchinbrook Shire, of which Pelorus Island is a part, says they’ve tried every other method of killing the goats: trapping them, shooting them on the ground, shooting them from the air, whatever they could think of.
“So when the boys came up with this idea we just thought, ‘Well that’s perfect’,” Jayo told Australia’s ABC News. “So when the boys came up with this idea we just thought, ‘Well that’s perfect.'”
The “boys” are a team of ace dingo killers (a.k.a. “conservationists”) led by Lee Allen, a senior zoologist at Biosecurity Queensland, and his son, University of Southern Queensland wildlife ecologist Dr. Ben Allen.
Dingoes are considered “pests” by ranchers, just like wolves and coyotes in America, so the Allens are well practiced in dreaming up ways of trapping and killing them. In this case, however, the plan that’s being deployed is to trap four dingoes and, rather than killing them right away, simply drop them on Pelorus, where they will gradually hunt down the goats.
When they’ve done their work, the dingoes will, in turn, be hunted down by the Allen team. This should be quite easy since the dingoes are wearing tracking collars. But since the Allens are not very confident of their own hunting abilities, they’ve implanted the dingoes with time-release poison pills that will act as “time bombs”, dissolving after two years and bringing an end to the dingoes’ suicide mission.
“There’s so much positive to be gained in doing this,” says Matthew Buckman, chief pest officer and coordinator of the project. “We’re gonna protect so many of these islands long-term. Once this one’s successful, it’ll set the platform for many other island managers to follow through and to carry out similar projects.”
Thank heaven for “boys” like these who know how to deal with “invasive species” and can recognize them when they see them.
After all, they only have to look in the mirror.