The dingo, Canis dingo, is the coyote of the Australian continent. This mesopredator is highly adaptable and clever, running in packs in areas where the land can support larger numbers and living alone in areas where the land can only support single individuals. This ability to adapt has enabled the dingo to live in some of the most inhospitable land habitats on the planet.
Based on fossil and anthropological evidence, as well as molecular research, the dingoes’ historic range included Asia, many pacific islands, and, eventually, Australia. It is suspected that the dingo was associated with nomadic, hunter-gatherer societies, which later transformed into sedentary agricultural societies and transported them throughout Oceania, though this cannot be confirmed. Today, threats to the dingo include persecution by humans and hybridization with domesticated dogs. The dingo’s modern range includes Australia, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos), Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Papua New Guinea†, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
Dingoes have a broad range of ecological tolerance and are found in all habitats, including tropical alpine moors, forested snow-clad mountains, arid hot deserts, and tropical wetlands and forests. While absent in much of the grasslands of Australia, this is due primarily to persecution by humans.
Based on skull morphometrics, the proportion of pure, non-hybridized dingo is declining drastically across much of the Australian continent. It is estimated that a decline of as much as 32% occurred between 1960 and 1980 in the south-eastern Highlands, with a greater reduction probable since 1980 leading many researchers to believe the dingo is technically locally extinct. Pure dingoes are common in northern, northwestern and central regions of Australia, but rare or extinct elsewhere with hybrid populations in abundance. Such quantitative data is not available for ranges outside Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand.
Prey typically includes smaller mammals, such as rabbits and foxes throughout Australia. Dingoes also scavenge through human garbage and agricultural areas in addition to taking some smaller livestock.
Ever hear the Johnny Cash hit about a boy named Sue? Well, we have a dingo named Bear. While he has not yet been immortalized in song, Bear is a handsome, if loud, fellow who lives with his sister, Melly. He arrived at the Center in July 2016 after completing his role in a dingo breeding program. Acrobatic, athletic and confident, Bear enjoys jumping up to grab toys dangling above him and then parading around with the toy in his mouth. He is also leash trained, so both he and Melly take occasional walks through the Center, sniffing intently and looking to make new friends. When his lion neighbors oof, he has no problems drowning out the noise with his own demanding howls.
Originally, after arriving at the Center in 2014, shy and cautious Melly lived with Spaulding Dog. Since moving in with her littermate, Bear, she’s taken on some of her brother’s sillier traits...like barking and howling for attention and treats! (Their favorites are cheese cubes.) Bear generally has to start all the hullabaloo first, though; otherwise, Melly is an introverted observer who prefers to take a back seat to Bear’s boisterous nature. She’s not a follower any more than Bear is a leader, but she doesn’t mind simply investigating, silently, the world around her. Her curious nature leads her to patrol her home territory in graceful circles, keeping tabs on all the other critters around her: lions, leopards, singing dogs, and those oh-so-handsome wolf boys next door!