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Victorian dingo gets a helping hand -

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Victorian dingo gets a helping hand

The World Today - Tuesday, 5 May , 2009 12:46:00

Reporter: Rachael Brown

PETER CAVE: Dingo DNA is being stored in Melbourne to conserve the lineage of the threatened
species.

Late last year, the Victorian Government agreed to classify the animals as wildlife, rather than
pests.

Researchers are recording and storing the sperm, cell lines and DNA of purebred dingoes for future
breeding programs.

Rachael Brown reports.

(Sound of dingo howling)

RACHAEL BROWN: Since the dingo's arrival in Australia, most likely from Indonesia up to 5,000 years
ago, their numbers have dropped to critical levels but no-one knows just how low.

ERNEST HEALY: In Victoria it's very hard to say.

The areas where they survive are often remote, rugged, mountainous regions and because the animal
has, up until now, been simply considered vermin if you like, there's been no interest by
Government to really support the research required to know what is out there.

RACHAEL BROWN: Dr Ernest Healy from the Victorian Dingo Care Network is applauding the state's move
to classify the animal as protected wildlife and he hopes the rest of the country will follow suit.

Farmers are only allowed to control dingos found to be threatening livestock on private land and
the state's looking at allocating large areas for the animal's conservation.

Dr Healy says the predator plays an important ecological role.

ERNEST HEALY: Of a particular concern is the introduction of the fox to the Australian environment
and the spread of feral cats, which have taken a devastating toll on small to medium-sized
marsupial species.

Indeed, many of these have become extinct in Australia.

RACHAEL BROWN: And I understand dingoes became incorporated into Aboriginal culture?

ERNEST HEALY: Very much so. In the very early 19th century, when explorers first, for example,
entered Port Philip Bay, one of the first animals observed at that time was the dingo.

RACHAEL BROWN: Veterinarian Dr Ian Gunn says it's tipped the population of purebred dingoes has
dropped to 5 per cent because of agricultural controls and cross breeding, either purposefully or
in the wild with feral dogs.

He's working with the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories (MISCL) to retain the purity of
the dingo species

IAN GUNN: We are attempting to collect pure semen, pure reproductive samples from dingoes and store
them and transfer them from one area to the other.

Because what we're seeing in Australia now, apart from the dingo being threatened, is that
fragmented populations.

You can't have viable survival of some of the fragmented populations.

So if we can collect and store DNA, reproductive tissue, cell lines from dingos that are caught or
trapped at different times, then we are protecting and preserving the genetics.

RACHAEL BROWN: And where will the sperm or cell lines and DNA be stored?

IAN GUNN: It's now stored at Monash University in a high security genetic bank.

We've been collecting tissue from tissue wild stock species and wildlife now for 20 years.

RACHAEL BROWN: And what other samples do you have there?

IAN GUNN: Samples from bilbies, to northern hairy-nose wombats, to black rhinoceroses, to different
wallaby species; even species like the grey-nosed shark.

RACHAEL BROWN: With the dingo samples, how will they be used in future, potentially, to assist
breeding programs?

IAN GUNN: We've been working on the reproduction of canine species now for at least 30 years.

And we've developed techniques that you can freeze the semen, you can (inaudibly) successfully in
canine species.

You can do this very easily with the dingo, and transfer that technology.

The technology of using assisted reproduction in the dingo is well-proven techniques.

It is practical and it can be used in conservation areas, whether it is in captive populations or
even in wild populations, where we can monitor the reproduction of the dingo and we can
artificially inseminate them.

(Sound of dingo barking)

PETER CAVE: Hmm, a nervous dingo perhaps.

Dr Ian Gunn from the Animal Gene Storage and Resource Centre of Australia, ending that report from
Rachael Brown.