Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Two stories from the future biography of Berenice Walters

I belong to my local branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Each month we are given a theme to write a contribution for our monthly magazine. This month the theme is ‘toilet humour’. I submitted two short stories about Berenice and thought you may enjoy reading them.


In the 1930s the Sydney suburb of Maroubra still needed the service of the ‘night soil carters’ or dunny men. There were typically dressed in shorts and sturdy work boots or sandshoes.

The outdoor toilet pan was collected twice weekly at the Lawson home. It was an undesirable job with one aspect fraught with additional stress. That was, surviving the onslaught of local dogs who were inclined to let these 'intruders' in but, greatly resented the removal of what was, no doubt to them, personal property. 

The Lawson’s dog, Spot, was a working breed and typically very active and very protective.

One poor dunny man was leaving Lawson’s back yard one day, a full, and smelly, pan balanced on his shoulders. Spot darting and snapping at the man’s bare legs trying to warn of the dog. In desperation, he threw his hat at the very excited dog.  Spot, in turn, grabbed the hat and tore off down the street, leaving behind an extremely agitated 'dunny' man. 

Mrs Lawson, a very prim and proper woman, must have nearly had a fit at the thought of the pan landing on the ground.


Berenice had her first encounter with a snake shortly she and her husband, Bern bought their farm at Bargo. As she came out of the outside toilet a snake was entering. Berenice launch herself into the air, breasts popping clear out of her strapless sun top, and hanging there like a helicopter before coming back to land. Grabbing a nearby hoe, she hysterically cut the poor animal up into tiny pieces.

The next run in Berenice had with a snake had a happier ending. Berenice and Bern were walking down the paddock when he suddenly yelled "snake"! Berenice took off like a rocket and leapt up onto a log while Bern laughed hysterically. Apparently when he yelled out "snake" they both took off (the snake and Berenice), Berenice leaping onto the log for protection, the snake dashing under the same log for the same reason.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Truth about Dingoes: 6 The protector of our native wildlife

The dingo is guardian of Australia's unique fauna & flora
Research has demonstrated that dingoes have a profound influence on ecosystem structure. 

The ecological influence of dingoes is so important in fact, that many native species can only persist where dingoes are present.

Dingoes suppress mesopredators (foxes & cats) and herbivores (rabbits, kangaroos, emus, feral goats & pigs), which enables small mammals to increase in abundance. Where predator control is relaxed, vegetation cover and diversity also increase.

Because dingoes are socially complex, they are particularly sensitive to lethal control.

Dingoes are deeply social and intelligent beings. They care for each other, hunt together, maintain territories and traditions, and their ecological influence is tightly linked with their pack structure.

To recover Australia's ecosystems, predator control practices must be eliminated entirely, and dingoes given full protection.

It is the pack that is the apex predator, not the individual dingo.

Many ecologists now recognise that the disruption of dingo populations has been the ultimate driving force of extinction and land degradation in Australia.

The ecosystem does recover when dingo populations are restored.

As Australia's Top Land Predator
As Australia’s "top land predator", dingoes have a mixed reputation. Farmers have long lamented their attacks on livestock, and in the public mind, they are associated with the disappearance of baby Azaria Chamberlain in 1980.

In most states, dingoes are classified as vermin, which means it’s legal to bait, trap and shoot dingoes and crossbred wild dogs. 

But some farmers are finding a dingo-friendly approach is gaining better results. 

Not too long ago a Queensland cattle farmer (Angus Emmott) recalled the following, 

“As a youngster, we used to always bait and we were always putting traps out and trapping dingoes,” “So it was an ongoing war back in the day.”

But these days Angus lets dingoes roam free on his farm.

“At no effort to yourself it provides control of your feral animals and also your large number of roos,” he says.

“So, it’s a win-win. In saying that, dingoes do take a certain no of calves - it’s very low, but I think with all the other benefits that’s a pretty small price to pay.”

Research backs up the idea that attempts to eliminate dingoes are counter-productive.

In some cases where they have killed dingoes there have seen more stock losses - more animals killed than before and more dingoes living in that area rather than less, (but in fractured pack structures!) There are also other negative effects; more kangaroos, more foxes. So overall, it’s been unsuccessful.

Australia's dingo is an extraordinary animal, that is able to more or less do the job of a lion or tiger; just because it looks like dog, it loses any value, when it is the most valuable animal in our ecosystem.

But the wool board feels that dingoes and wild dogs remain the sheep farmer’s worst enemy.

They say "in the long run their numbers have got to be significantly reduced,” and Wool Producers Australia has put together a national wild dog action plan to rid our dingoes that we've got in rural Australia.

It's a fact that we need our dingoes and we must get them off of the vermin listing.

If we can learn to coexist with the dingo without lethal control, we can, and will, all benefit.

The dingo’s future ultimately depends on how we - governments, landholders, scientists, conservationists, the public and the media - choose to see them and how this influences our views on how we should or shouldn't manage them. Ideally a sustainable coexistence that favours non-lethal approaches to conflict resolution. Such as concentrating on guardian livestock animals with no further baiting.

Information reproduced with permission from http://jennyleeparker3.wixsite.com/aussie-canis-dingo

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

So, You Want to Own a Dingo by Berenice Walters. Part 2

Many people today still think that owning a dingo is the same as owning any breed of domestic dog. This is just not the case and was a matter that concerned Berenice many years ago. This is the second part of an extract from her book “The Company of Dingoes: Two Decades with Our Native Dog” published in 1995 and based on her own experience over 20 years. 

Comments from experienced Dingo people are welcome.

Can Dingoes cross-breed with domestic dogs?

Dingoes can cross-breed with domestic dogs, especially when deprived of their own kind. In the wild, the dingo pair has a strong lifetime relationship if not interfered with by man or accident. The close social structure of the small group, or pair, protects the breed from mongrelisation. However, indiscriminate eradication programmes such as aerial baiting, poisoning, trapping, shooting, in wilderness areas, could deprive a dingo of its mate, and lead directly to cross-breeding, particularly in the case of a lone male. The death of a mature dingo could also lead directly to increased numbers through premature breeding by immature dingoes due to lack of parental control.

Domestic breeds of dogs have been bred for highly specialised work - for herding, hunting, heeling, protection, sledge pulling etc. for many centuries. In the dingo, we have a 'Jack of all trades, master of none (except perhaps, survival). Deliberate cross-breeding (or mongrelisation) of this superb natural, purest of pure breeds, cannot be justified, nor should it be tolerated.

When is the Dingo breeding season, and are they different to normal domestic breeds?

The Dingo has a single annual mating season that is restricted to the time of declining light, the Autumn/early Winter months when behaviour can become extreme. General restlessness at the onset of the breeding season usually starts late February, particularly if there is a cool change in the weather; quarrelling and scrapping can become a real problem, and some groups may have to be temporarily broken up. In the wild, the less dominant members of the group can keep away from the dominant members, but in captivity, an unnatural situation and frequently overcrowded and stressful; it is up to humans to protect the welfare of those who cannot protect themselves naturally.

The onset of the breeding season is particularly difficult with the young male dingo. Secure fencing, backed up with the discipline of such from puppyhood, is essential to prevent wandering. Desexed dingoes also react similarly at the approaching 'season' but are usually less assertive.

In the domestic environment, bitches must be protected during the breeding season as with other breeds. At the Merigal Dingo Sanctuary, where we have approximately 10 bitches, and a program of controlled breeding, we used to give the contraceptive Matenon, starting late February and through to July and had no adverse side effects. However, this has been taken off the market and we are currently using medroxyprogesterone acetate with care being taken when using it in older animals. For further information consult your veterinary surgeon.

The in-season bitch can stay attractive over a period of 6 to 8 weeks; the time of initial attraction can extend from the normal 10 to 12 days to 20 days and more. Frequently, the bitch will allow the male to mate with her once early in this period, possibly 10 to 14 days prior to the time of regular matings, as if nature was making sure of her male's attendance during the receptive period. There are also many reports of the Dingo bitch cycling twice within the breeding season, perhaps depending on the availability of a male.

Dingoes are very active during "process of mating”, and usually tie quickly after mounting, the period of the tie recorded at Merigal relatively short, 11-17 minutes. Matings early in the heat period are accompanied by excited calls and moans from the mating bitch, and screams and excited howling from the rest of the group; again, perhaps nature's way of protecting the mating pair at this vulnerable time with this ear-splitting barrage.
To be continued