Long long ago, people brought dingoes to Fraser Island, a big sand island off eastern Australia. The dingoes went wild and self-supporting. Nowadays, dingoes in most of Australia have had the chance to breed with more recently imported dogs. (Don't get silly. I do not speak of the dingopoo, the cockadingo, the dreaded dingohuahua.) The Fraser dingoes are among the purest old dingo stock, so dogs are forbidden on the island.
Fraser Island is in Queensland. It has miles of shimmering beaches, a hundred lakes of pure fresh water, and lofty, ferny rainforest, so a third of a million people drop by each year.
Tourists, and some of the few hundred people who live on Fraser, sometimes feed the dingoes. Authorities advise against feeding dingoes. Residents say they can handle themselves around dingoes. But in 2001 dingoes killed a 9-year-old whose family was camping there. To protect both humans and dingoes, the government shot some of the bolder dingoes and built sturdy dingo fences, surrounding areas where people live. Many island residents protested, finding the fences destructive, annoying, or pointless.
Several nonfatal dingo attacks have occurred just outside the fences. In April, Mike West, of Birds Queensland, said that goannas – huge, speedy, monitor lizards, (Varanus) – are multiplying dangerously because of the dingo policy.
“We're up to our armpits in bloody great big goannas at Kingfisher Bay and Eurong because there's no dingoes inside the fences to chase them off,” West told the Courier-Mail. (I found this story on the comprehensive website herper.com.)
Goannas can get nearly seven feet long. They can harm people, although they are unlikely to try to eat us because they cannot swallow us whole. Their bite may be a little bit venomous. Apparently, many people who are not bothering goannas get injured while watching someone else bother a goanna. The goanna lashes its huge tail, and bystanders suffer. That's not all. “Alarmed goannas can mistake standing humans for trees and attempt to climb off the ground to safety, which is understandably painful, as well as distressing for both man and beast,” according to Wikipedia.
West told of being personally menaced by goannas. “I got chased by one and had to drop an Esky on it. It's the same problem as dingoes. They are not frightened of people.” (An Esky is a cooler, sometimes even an Eskimo brand cooler.)
In lots of places goannas have learned that people have food, either food which they will give a hungry lizard, or which a hungry lizard can just help itself to. Authorities advise against feeding goannas.
West says the dingo fencing has been a failure, and should be scrapped. Inevitably, he says, a tourist will get bitten by a goanna. “Are they going to start shooting goannas next? They've already shot kookaburras for pecking people and they are trying to trap a crocodile off Fraser. Where's it all going to end?”
Authorities say they are reviewing dingo management strategy. In the meantime, they advise against feeding wildlife. Recently, a litter of dingo puppies was discovered underneath the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service headquarters. They are insanely cute. Malcontents suggest the rangers are... feeding them.
I long to travel to Fraser Island to view wildlife. I will join the other tourists balanced on top of the sturdy government fence, with dingoes eyeing us from one side and goannas from the other, and all of us keeping an eye cocked to the sky for flocks of killer kookaburras. Look for me there! I'll be wearing body armor and a NO DINGOHUAHUAS T-shirt, and I'll be carrying a picnic basket.