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North Queensland council using dingoes to eradicate destructive feral goats -

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ELIZABETH JACKSON: A North Queensland council is undertaking a radical project to save the environment of a Great Barrier Reef island.

Hinchinbrook Shire Council is releasing dingoes to eradicate feral goats on Pelorus Island, which is about 80 kilometres north of Townsville.

More from our national rural and regional correspondent Dominique Schwartz.

(Sound of waves breaking on rocks)

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Pelorus is a rugged island of four square kilometres. It's home to a rare coastal rainforest and 300 goats, which are making a meal out of the endangered habitat.

(Sound of goats bleating)

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Ramon Jayo is the mayor of Hinchinbrook Shire, which manages the island.

RAMON JAYO: As a council we have an obligation as the trustees of this land, as the custodians of this land, to control or eradicate pests.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Feral goats are a problem on many islands around Australia. They were released by early European settlers as food for lighthouse keepers and shipwrecked sailors.

Without predators, their numbers have exploded, and millions of dollars have been since spent trying to remove them.

On Pelorus, nothing has worked so far, so the council is co-opting natural-born killers.

(Sound of trappers discussing dingoes)

TRAPPER 1: His foot will still be fairly swollen.


DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: It's trapping four male dingos on cattle-and-cane properties around Ingham. The animals are being desexed and vaccinated before their island release.

And to ensure they don't become entrenched pests themselves, the wild dogs are also being implanted with a capsule of 1080 poison, timed for release in two years.

Wildlife ecologist and dingo expert Dr Ben Allen says the poison is a backup.

BEN ALLEN: The plan is: dingos wipe out goats. We come back and humanely shoot those dingos, because they'll have tracking collars so we can find where they go.

If for whatever reason we can't come back and shoot those dingos, well then, those little time bombs will go off.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: It's a lesson learned from a similar project on Townshend Island 20 years ago. The dingos killed the goats, but then evaded death themselves for more than a decade, decimating the shore bird population.

BEN ALLEN: You've got to remember: the whole reason we are doing this is because we are trying to restore this island. The last thing we want to do is create another problem for this island.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Mayor Jayo is optimistic:

MAYOR JAYO: I mean, the dingo is a predator. The goat is a source of the dingo's affections. So we believe that: yeah, just put nature together and that'll sort out a problem. It is a win for the environment.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: The first two dingoes are already on the hunt.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's Dominique Schwartz.

And you can see the full story on Landline tomorrow on ABC1 at noon.