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Dingoes to tackle feral animals in regional Vic -

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ELEANOR HALL: Now to a project in regional Victoria which will involve using dingoes to control feral animals like foxes, cats and rabbits.

It's the first scheme of its type in Australia, and the dingoes are being trialled as an alternative to baiting.

Tom Nightingale reports.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The tall grey box eucalypts at Eynesbury, northwest of Melbourne represents what was once common across parts of southern Australia.

The forest is part of a private wildlife reserve on a historic estate.

It's managed by zoologist Shakira Todd.

SHAKIRA TODD: It's a reserve which is now surrounded by a lot of developed and cleared farmland, so it's quite a bit of an island. What we intend to do is by putting up predator proof fencing, we aim to benefit I guess the, I suppose the pest animals that are foxes, the cats and rabbits.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The project was conceived as an alternative to live baiting. Success will depend on things like native grasses and birds increasing as foxes, cats and rabbits are eradicated.

The idea has interested people from as far away as Townsville.

Shakira Todd says if it works, it could be replicated elsewhere.

SHAKIRA TODD: We have little dingo reserves around Australia to conserve areas which are threatened, would definitely be viable options in the future. And it's really what we hope that this pilot study will be able to try and get that idea out there as an alternative to trying to eradicate pests by baiting and other methods.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: She says it's supported by local landholders, and a fence two metres tall will prevent the two dingoes escaping.

SHAKIRA TODD: Inside that 10 hectare fence area will be another enclosure so where they'll be housed the majority of the time.

And then they'll be let out to exercise in that 10 hectare area, so that 10 hectare area perimeter will be spread with three metre high fences with dig proof skirting which will be pinned to the ground and of course prevention to stop the dingoes from jumping over the fence.

And they'll be monitored daily, that fence line will be checked by volunteers to ensure there hasn't been any breaches to the perimeter, so to definitely minimise any dingo escapes so there will be no threat to neighbouring livestock.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: Australia's farmers have long been against dingoes because they prey on livestock.

Gerald Leach from the Victorian Farmers Federation is sceptical about the project.

GERALD LEACH: The important thing Tom is that we must ask the question, what is the objective of this project? If the objective is to demonstrate that the dingoes will control the foxes and other predators, such as wild cats, is it really going to be able to be extrapolated onto a much broader scale?

That's why we're sceptical, because we don't think that a very small scale project like this will necessarily prove anything.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: What would prove it?

GERALD LEACH: Quite frankly I can't see how it can possibly work on a large scale, because once you get onto a large scale, I'm talking about where you have dingoes having open access to domestic livestock, then obviously the domestic livestock are natural prey for the dingo.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The dingoes are expected to be introduced within a month or two.

ELEANOR HALL: Tom Nightingale with our report.