Scentpost - October 1996

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

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Coo-ee Again!

Well, having passed our 11 October birthday, I can announce with great pleasure that ANDCS is now twenty years old and we are currently recovering from our very successful Dingofest, held on 20 October. (Actually, I've just recovered from a cold which I suspect came from a certain ACD breeder and judge of our photo competition. Guess who, Gill! :-) Thanks for judging, though!)
For a week leading up to the event, we had been nervously watching the weather reports. Unsettled weather forecast for the middle of the week seemed somehow to get moved to the weekend. Then it was going to be alright again.
Funny how details come into focus as an event draws near. All of a sudden, there seemed to be a pile of things to do.
The day of the event meant a 5.00am start, getting things out which could not be left set up overnight. The weather still looked decidedly dicey, with a thin drizzle in the air.
By 8.00am, the place was becoming a hive of activity. The Dingoes looked on in a bemused way. At 10.00am, people began to filter in.
And what nice people! All well-behaved and appreciative. By the time we were ready to close, the clouds had departed and the day turned into a glorious, crisp, sunny spring day.
And, of course (yes, I had to mention it ), there was the issue of all-important dollars. Our visitors were good spenders, and the event was very successful financially with over two thousand dollars taken on the day. With the raffle into the bargain, about three-and-a-half thousand dollars were taken in total.
As with any such event, planning and attention to detail is crucial, and while there have been a few gaps which have been identified in various post-mortems of the day, most comments have been complimentary.
As one would expect, there is a veritable cast of thousands (OK, dozens, then - yes, I've been told a billion times not to exaggerate!! ) to thank which always fills me with trepidation ('cos I don't want to leave anyone out). So I'll pass the buck to B. ... see the DONATIONS page!! :-)
And ... THANKS!!!

Weather Conditions and Grounds

Spring is here! And a nice moist one at that. The huge number of trees and plants donated by our gardeners, notably by Elizabeth Smith, are all growing mightily ... and so is the grass, which is keeping us occupied.
The skeletons of blackberries, their stark leafless stems clawing blindly at the sky, remain a monument to a successful blackberry eradication program. Fireweed and bindies (no, not you, Bindi) remain troublesome. Would any of you be prepared to come to a fireweed-pulling day for a share in a cold slab (or keg) and a sausage sandwich? Well, don't overwhelm me with enthusiasm, I might die of shock (says he sarcastically expecting no response )!
The wattles put on a magnificent display this year, and now it is the turn of the Callistemons and Melaleucas (bottle-brushes).
With the warmer weather coming, we have had the kennels sprayed for fleas. Flies are about, too, so it is more important than ever to keep the place clean and tidy.

Capital Works

Having mentioned flies, I might add that with money we have raised recently, we are hoping to redevelop an area of the old Wooleston night accommodation to house washing facilities and it can also double, perhaps as a moist food preparation area. With water available, electricity soon to be available, and the potential to make it fly- and vermin-proof it would be better than current arrangements.
Not only that, it will put the finishing touches to our entrance, removing the last vestiges of dilapidated dog accommodation from the scrutiny of visitors as they enter the Sanctuary.
Our new entrance to the Sanctuary was opened for the Dingofest and, having had loads of chip spread on surrounding gardens, is looking pretty good. OK, I confess I was the one who told people to put the chip in the garden instead of the entrance track, but it does look good, doesn't it? Er ... doesn't it?
The ugly-looking thing behind 'Dusty's and Jedda's enclosure that resembles a diesel storage tank is indeed just that - a diesel-storage tank. Or it was ...
I can hear a voice in my head now, very plainly saying, "No, that is not a diesel-storage tank, that is your new irrigation storage tank." And so it is, Mr Winney, so it is.
Lawrie Winney and I spent a dismal Saturday morning recently installing an assortment of piping to and from this tank along a "creek bed" which Elizabeth Smith has landscaped into our gardens surrounding the new parking area. With all this gardening going on, the water's gotta follow.

Here We Are!

We organised with local sign-writer, Norm Maunder, to get a new sign for the place prior to our Dingofest, but unfortunately the lead time, with rain and all, was too small. However, Norm kindly donated one small sign, and we now have the larger one up. It is reasonably visible from the road, but a double-sided sign on a post will be better. We'll have to save up, I guess.


As you'd expect, everyone is madly dropping coat. Like the coats of grey wolves, Dingo coats come out in serial ridges gradually moving up the legs and flanks. What everyone needs is a good bath - that really gets the coat out.


As readers will know, our research recently has centred on DNA work which is taking up quite a large slice of my time. The project involves looking for differences between Dingoes' and other dogs' DNA.
To begin with, we are looking at DNA microsatellites, small, very variable pieces of DNA between genes which have repeating base (components of DNA) sequences. Mutations affect the number of times the repeats occur and differences build up quite quickly, so that species which have not become separated for a very long time may possibly still be differentiated on this basis.
To examine particular microsatellites, we first clone the section of DNA we're interested in, using polymerase chain reaction. This involves adding the dog DNA to a number of reagents and repeatedly heating and cooling the mixture in an automated machine called a thermocycler. If all goes well, the result is an increase in the quantity of the relevant section by, perhaps, hundreds of million fold.
The resulting product can then be exposed on a flat sheet of gel medium to an electric potential difference (ie. a voltage) in a process called gel electrophoresis and, because the cloned DNA fragments are charged, they will move across the gel. The more massive the fragments, the slower they will run.
The fragments of DNA are shown up in a variety of ways. The DNA fragments can be stained with silver solutions, or they can have fluorescent or radioactive substances incorporated into them to label them. That way, we can see how far different products have moved.
The result is a series of bands on the gel or other medium indicating the position of the product generated from each DNA sample in lanes or tracks down the medium on which the positions of the fragments have been displayed. These are compared with a standard to ensure the correct sizes (ie. correct products) are present (ie. that the reaction has worked properly). Then they are compared with each other.
Because microsatellites are transmitted from parent to offspring just like genes, they can tell us about the relatedness of different species or types of animals.
So one starts with DNA from animals one has good reason to assume are Dingoes and animals one can safely say are non-Dingo and compares the size of the fragments produced from the DNA of each individual, looking for regular differences between Dingoes and non-Dingoes (if they are at all there).
If we can find fragment sizes (ie. representing alleles) that Dingoes have and non-Dingo dogs never have, we have a means of determining Dingo ancestry. And if we can find non-Dingo alleles that Dingoes never have, we can prove non-Dingo ancestry.
But Dingo and non-Dingo populations may not have unique alleles. Even so, frequencies of alleles will doubtlessly vary between populations, in which case it is down to the statisticians/theoretical geneticists to help us work it all out!
And if microsatellites don't help, we have a battery of other tests available which I won't go into at this stage.
So, what have I been up to? Well, collecting samples and extracting DNA takes time. But we've got a good array of samples now, thanks to all who've helped! And the PCR process itself takes some trial and error to find optimal conditions. Otherwise, spurious products can form, or nothing at all. And different DNA microsatellites need different conditions.
We are currently using techniques which will make the PCR products glow under appropriate conditions so, using the automated sequencer, we can get increased sensitivity and speed ...
... So, if you bothered to read that at all, that's what we're up to. We'll keep you posted on what's going on.


Recent publicity largely organised by Pam Down has raised the profile of the Society quite a bit lately, with exposure on radio 2UE in Sydney and in the local press. It also drew us some interest from Channel Ten's Totally Wild as previously mentioned. We are currently looking at ways to maintain the momentum, without exhausting media interest.

Membership Renewals

Are due on 1 JANUARY 1997!!

Many see fit to give us small donations though the year, or when they pay their memberships. Still others have helped by selling raffle tickets, buying and finding buyers for our merchandise, or saving us money by donating their services. To those people, thanks very much!!
But everyone who stays with us, helps us. And one huge contribution you can make is to pay your membership on or before the due date. That way, instead of sitting on our hands (or tearing out our hair from frustration!), we can continue to make progress on behalf of the Dingo.
Please consider paying your membership right now. Interest rates are dropping and couple of months interest on your membership fee won't amount to two cents - which, depending on your circumstances could be taxable anyway!
Sorry to sound mercenary (hey, what's new?), but it's for a good cause!! :-)


Conservation Through Education