Scentpost - July 1997

Newsletter of the Australian Native Dog Conservation Society Limited

590 Arina Road (PO Box 91), Bargo, NSW, 2574 Australia 'phone +61 46 841 156 fax +61 46 841 156

e-mail - merigal@zip.com.au

A Little Whine, Anyone? :-)

Whew! This edition has been quite difficult to put together, but not for technical reasons. After making a one year initial commitment to work here at the Sanctuary, it has stretched to three years. Certainly, good progress has been made, but not without some stress.
In the last year, while she maintained excellent general health, Berenice's mobility has declined significantly to the point where she now does not walk at all. At the same time, I have taken on research two days a week, and casual teaching and other work to boost my income. With our resident canines to be considered, too, I confess to feeling a bit worn out at times! Anyway, spring is here and is a welcome boost!
For those who have noticed I have been a little spiky of late, I apologise, and inasmuch as apology comes from the Greek word, apologia, meaning a "defence", ohhhh ... enough of this self-justification! We are just going ahead, and things have just piled up. Sorry! Please stick with us - we need all the support we can get. Next issue of Merigal already on the way. Now, back to scheduled programming! :-)

Grounds and Reception Centre

Dry weather over the last few months does not bode well for the huge number of plants put in over that time. We are hoping for good rains in spring. Recent cold nights seem to have called a halt to flea and fly development. As they say, "It's an ill wind ... ". We've had some spectacular frosts! Windbreak plants are now going into the boundaries of the green feed paddock. This large, open area behind the one acre paddock could support a variety of uses. More later.
Plans have been submitted for the reception centre, which will finally make the front of the property look finished. We are waiting for comment from the builder. Demolition work has begun on the dilapidated kennels facing the parking area.
Some fence upgrading has been carried out, notably the houseyard fence, which Oola managed to climb, resulting in her getting in with Amber and having a good ol' ding-dong!

The Mystery of the Glowing Bones

OK, hum The Twilight Zone theme, everyone! We used to get a quantity of bones from B&C Gourmet meats in Tahmoor, who kindly delivered them, and charged a minimal amount. Thanks to the efforts of Lawrie Winney, Margaret Fulton, Pam Hartley, Bruce Hollier and others, our Dingoes get enough bones without this, and so I have cancelled deliveries for now.
Late one evening, after a very busy day, I was sorting bones in the pale glow of a naked globe in the garage. It was cold and miserable, but I didn't feel that as I worked feverishly at the grisly task.
The Dingoes shuffled restlessly in their enclosures. In the dim light from the garage, I could see the outline of a cattle-dog in her doghouse bordering the parking area. A quantity of fat was burning in the incinerator, casting a lurid glow over the Dingo enclosures.
There were too may bones to store (which is why we cancelled the deliveries). I wheeled a barrowload of bones out into the Dingo compound to a tumultuous roar of excitement from our canine residents. The din soon subsided, and I was left to my own thoughts in the eerie stillness which descended, broken only by the pacing and expectant whines of dogs waiting for their bones, the squeaking of the wheelbarrow, the munching of bones and the crackling of hot tallow in the incinerator.
A gibbous moon sailed high in the icy night air, its lambent glow combining with the lurid, incandescence of the blazing tallow Suddenly, as I rounded the corner of the meeting hall, everything was plunged into darkness. But an distinct, green luminescence emanated from the box of bones. I shuffled them, thinking it must have been moonlight filtering through a gap in the overhanging branches. That's when I discovered the awful truth! The glow was coming from the bones themselves!!
Yes, there were small, greenish spots on several of the bones. Creepy, huh? Well, actually, no big deal. It wasn't radiation! It was bioluminescence from microbial action, as far as I have been able to find out But I must admit I did a double-take when I first noticed it that night. So there you go!

Our Canine Residents

In general, our Dingoes have been looking very good this winter. ZoŽ and Queenie have developed luxurious coats. Snowdrift looks pretty good. Only Amber, Kadoka and Jarrah are showing signs of having had broken coats, and are on the mend. We had a problem with grass fleas in the immediate vicinity of the house yard earlier in the year, and had to give some areas a second dose of deltamethrin.
Oola is enjoying her stay around the house, and is, in general, behaving herself. Plants which our keen gardeners have planted along the boundary of the house block and the property on the northern side have been unmolested and are growing well.
On the other hand, I had to schedule a hurried removal of the remainder of the old house block fence as Oola decided to use this as a ladder and climbed in with Amber and Gunda.

Koori and Teena have been fighting, too. Teena seems to have an infatuation with being pregnant. Earlier this year, the Dingoes had begun love-songs and I knew the first dose of contraceptive was wearing off. This meant a quick tour of the kennel checking rear-ends to determine who the culprit was, and scheduling the second contraceptive dose for the next available day we would have volunteers to assist.
I pretty quickly determined that Teena was preparing for a break-through oestrus, and she was dosed with contraceptive in the morning. Later that day, she and Koori attempted the usual "mating of desperation" as Koori, no doubt, detected his girl going out of season. Fortunately, Teena does not appear to have conceived.
On the other hand, she does seem to have taken on the smug look she gets when she thinks she is going to have puppies. Hmmm ... well we'll see. I think she is overdue now, so I doubt it. Anyway, her fighting Koori over bones could be related to that.

Rocket-rump strikes again

Most of the Dingoes are now enjoying a turn in the one-acre paddock on a weekly basis. Amber and Gunda were down there recently, when I remembered Gunda was a jumper. I quickly checked for overhanding trees and shrubs, but everything seemed pretty much in order. Satisfied, I left them down there for the day, making a couple of quick checks on them to see that they were still there.
As the day drew to a close, I suddenly realised that nightfall was coming, and this would make the two Dingoes keen to get back to their own enclosure. Oh, no! I really should have had them back in the early afternoon! Mentally kicking myself, I put Blackdog and Flea in their night enclosure and went to get Gunda and Amber. When I got to the one-acre paddock, there was only one head. Gunda was gone.
Now worried, I called him, hoping he had found something of interest down the paddock and would come to my voice. Nothing. I was vaguely aware of three Dingoes watching and wagging their tails in 'Hostie's and Romulus' enclosure. One seemed agitated.
Hey, wait a minute. Three Dingoes?
Sure enough, Gunda was there. There was no fighting - all three seemed quite happy together. But it wasn't a good thing. Because I let Gunda get worried and test the fence, he now knows he can climb it. I have rapped myself over the knuckles ...

Loopy Nardoo

At night, Nardoo will for no apparent reason just start to bark-howl and it eventually gets all the other residents going. How annoying! She used to live with Koori, and I saw her reacting when he was getting chatty with Lasca on the fence recently. Wonder if that is the cause?

Visitations

Figures really need analysis, but at a glance, suggest visitations are up significantly. Where in the past we have experienced visitor "droughts" interspersed among brief periods of plenty, the approaching drought periods regularly seem to be being filled. On weekends, we regularly have visitors. Great for business, but it is hard to get office work done!!
Of great encouragement is the increasing number of local visitors who are dropping in for a chat with the Dingoes. We do advertise, but I think we are getting much of our promotion through word-of-mouth. It gives one the warm, fuzzies to hear someone say, "Well, someone we know gave your facility a glowing report, so now we want to visit!"
So, what does a Dingo Sanctuary have to offer, with the wide variety of wildlife parks and other attractions which can offer a greater diversity of animals for public view?
Well, people seem to like the absence of jostling crowds coupled with the personalised nature of the tours. I think this explains why we seem to be getting an increasing number of seniors and disabled peoples' groups, and it is good to feel that our organisation is providing a service for these people while raising money for our Dingo cause.
Of course, it is important to get the message over to the young, too, and we are pleased to say we have a school booking of fifty, seven and eight year old school children. Children are a special group, so this will be an interesting trial (possibly in more ways than one! ) for us. Perhaps we can drag Berenice out to help, as she did quite a few school visits with Dingoes and slide show in the early 1980s.

Research

As I have said before, the main aim of our project is to develop a molecular means of differentiating Dingoes from domestic dogs and Dingo hybrids to replace the current system of skull measurements currently being used, and visual assessments, which are unreliable. We also aim to look at regional variation in Dingoes to determine whether or not our system of referring to alpine, tropical and inland Dingoes can be substantiated through genuine genetic differences. Finally, we will be examining breeds suspected or known to have had Dingo infusion., such as, for instance, Australian Cattle Dogs.
Research is humming along. With several honours students now working on canine microsatellites, we are now zipping through the DNA loci and another interesting site has popped up.

Sample-wise, we are quite well off, owing to support from a wide variety of sources. While sorting out some of the techniques had been a bit of a problem last year, sample collection, which may have held things up, has gone well.
We have collected from a good proportion of the Dingoes here at the Dingo Sanctuary, and we have good records on most of these animals which will assist with interpretation of results. Wildlife parks and zoos have also contributed, as have individuals. Barry Oakman's effort in organising collection of a very significant proportion of samples is greatly appreciated.
Carla Srb at Healesville Sanctuary is compiling a stud book of Dingoes which I am sure will greatly assist our work as well as being an invaluable tool for captive breeding management plans.
Recent news on investigations into the relationships between various canids has been interesting, to say the least. Researchers in Rob Wayne's team at UCLA have looked at mitochondrial DNA to examine the interrelationships of existing domestic and primitive dog breeds with a variety of wild canids, and have concluded that all domestic dogs, including Dingoes and New Guinea Wild Dogs, are descended from the grey wolf. It has been suggested, at variance with the fossil record, that domestication of the dog may have started as early as one hundred thousand years ago. Fossil records indicate a more recent time - fourteen thousand years before present.
As the molecular dating methods are based on DNA mutation rates, and these can vary significantly over time, the hundred thousand year dating could be out either way as much as three hundred percent, but it still suggests the domestic dog population may have started to split from the wolf population well before what fossil records indicate was the time dogs were first domesticated. The fossil evidence suggests fourteen thousand years.
It will be interesting to see how more intensive DNA microsatellite work affects conclusions drawn from the mitochondrial DNA work. It is also nice to be able to report that the Society has a direct slice of the action through the Dingo work. We'll keep you posted.

Communications/Media

There has been quite some interest from the electronic media in things locally, and we can tell you that we recently made a segment for Beyond Productions, which will be shown in Europe in October as part of its Animal Extremes series. We don't know when it will be shown elsewhere. We are also making a segment for Totally Wild and will advise of further information on this when it comes to hand.

Corporate Sponsorship

We've had some pleasing news on sponsorship. The Australian Cattle Dog of America recently held its inaugural Ancestral Class for Australian Cattle Dogs looking most like a Dingo. Relax! It was only a fun class. It raised about one hundred dollars, and the ACDCA has matched that so that they have been able to provide a full year sponsorship for Oola.
Mary Wieland, International Committee Chair for the ACDCA has been particularly active and supportive of the event, but at the recent Board meeting of the ACDCA, Directors voted unanimously to top up the hundred dollars collected with one hundred from Club funds.
In late-breaking news, list administrators for ACD-L, an electronic mail list devoted to discussion of the Australian Cattle Dog will also be sponsoring a Dingo from money raised from subscribers to the list. It is pleasing to see the cattle-dog putting something back into a breed they claim to have derived so much from. So often in the past, natural resources have been perceived to have been available to be "used and abused".
Both sponsorships have come through the Internet. And to those from whom I've received constant criticism from the time I have spent on the 'Net, point taken, but a big raspberry to you anyway!!

Member Network

We need e-mail addresses so we can get in touch with people quickly and conveniently. E-mail is wonderful for organising rescue and group events. If you are local and thinking about going on the 'Net, let me know, and I may be able to help. Further, your choice of Internet Service Provider could contribute to supporting our web site, so chat to us if you want to get connected!

Dingofest '97 - White Elephant Stall

We will be having a white elephant stall. I think this is going down-market, but hopefully it will appeal to some of our visitors on the day. So now is the time to do what I suspect some of you do anyway ... and that is look through your junk and see if there is anything to offload to us!
On a more serious note, we are already selling "pre-loved books", and I have been surprised at the interest they generate, so perhaps the white elephant stall will not be such a bad idea. Anyway, clean out the attic and see whatcha' got! Thanks in advance!!