Dear Ministers, don't kill our native predators with aerial baiting after the bushfires!
A group of 24 scientists has sent a submission to the New South Wales, Victorian and Federal Government Environment and Agriculture Ministers asking them to reconsider planned aerial baiting programs in 2020 following the catastrophic bushfires.
Whilst we commend the State and Federal Governments for making proactive bushfire recovery plans, the current 1080 aerial baiting program threatens native predators like dingoes and quolls.
First, dingoes are being directly targeted for eradication, as "wild dogs" are simply dingoes and dingoes with some dog genes. DNA testing demonstrates that wild dingoes carry predominately dingo DNA and that feral domestic dogs are virtually absent from the wild (see below figure). Dingoes are a native species and so should be protected. If livestock producers need assistance in managing livestock predation then non-lethal control methods or targeted lethal control should be adopted. Landscape level aerial baiting is not an appropriate strategy as it endangers the identity of dingoes and may push dingo populations closer to local extinction in southeastern Australia.
Second, aerial 1080 baiting is indiscriminate, non-target species such as quolls, varanids, corvids etc consume baits opportunistically. Scientific research looking at the consumption of 1080 baits by quolls and other natives has occurred in localised regions and in high resource environments (ie healthy habitat). It is not known if quolls and other non-target species will consume additional baits in low resource environments, but it is reasonable to assume that animals will eat baits (and more of them) as drought and bushfire has made food scarce. This presents an unacceptable risk to native species of carnivore or omnivore in southeastern Australia given the recent bushfire destruction. Native species are not immune to 1080, especially in southeastern Australia.
Retaining native predators such as dingoes and quolls is important for healthy ecosystem function and biodiversity resilience. Removing dingoes from the environment (by 1080 baiting) will likely lead to mesopredator release, increasing the impact of foxes and cats on threatened and recovering native species across southeastern Australia.