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    Tuesday, May 1 12:41 PM SGT

Tourists to blame for "super" dingoes in boy's killing

SYDNEY, May 1 (AFP) -

Dingoes which killed a nine-year-old boy on a remote Australian island were part of what a wildlife expert on Tuesday called a "super" pack of wild dogs.

Wildlife Preservation Society president Jan Oliver said constant feeding by tourists on Fraser Island off the Queensland coast had created packs of strong male dogs which normally would perish on being banished by dominant females in the wild.

"Because of the conditions on Fraser they have become super packs," she said.

"The human influence on Fraser Island's dingoes has created a very different environment and different breeding pattern for dingoes so that we now get bigger packs.

"More of the younger males are surviving and the alpha female which is the dominant dog is now less in control and more of the younger males and females are living because of extra food supply.

"Before, some of those young pups would've been killed by their mothers to control the pack size but more younger males are hanging around."

Twenty people have been attacked in the past six years on Fraser Island.

And Queensland State Environment Minister Dean Wells said he was considering a new cull.

Forty dingoes had been destroyed in the past 10 years because they posed a threat to humans.

But Wells said the numbers of dingoes had risen because tourists fed them.

"In these circumstances a risk assessment is necessary. It should focus on the question of whether and how the dingo population on the island should be reduced," he said.

The father of the nine-year-old boy killed by dingoes was forced to save his other son from attack, it was revealed.

Ross Gage stumbled across the body of nine-year-old Clinton after his son's friend ran for help when the two boys were attacked by a pair of wild dogs on the beach.

Gage ran to try to rescue his son, followed by his seven-year-old son Dylan.

Gage's father, John Gage, said Dylan was then attacked while Gage stood over his other's son mauled body.

"He got to the body and it was his son Clinton, mauled and dead," John Gage told commercial radio. "At that he heard screams from his seven-year-old and turned around and saw the dingo on him so he left the dead boy Clinton and raced back and kicked the dingo from the seven-year-old, who was bleeding.

"And the dingo even had a go at him (Ross). So he carried the seven-year-old back to the dead boy and the dingo was back on the dead boy, trying to eat his face away."

Ross Gage then picked up the boys and was followed by the dingo before the boys' mother arrived to help them get back to the family's tent.

A male and female dingo, found near where the killing happened, were destroyed by a police marksman.

Police believe the dingoes stalked the boy and a seven-year-old friend after the pair left their camping ground to play on the beach.

Fraser Island camp site operators said tourists had not left because of the death.

And Betty Gardner, who brings her grandchildren regularly to the island, said she did not feel threatened by the wild dogs.

"We recognise that they are a wild animal," she said. "We've never worried and we've never fed them. I feel quite safe here."

She said rangers and resort owners regularly warned visitors not to feed the dingoes.

Anyone caught feeding the dingoes faces an on-the-spot 75 dollarfine. The maximum penalty is 1,400 dollars (700 US).


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Police said the two boys were camped with their families at Waddy Point, on the ocean side of the island.

Mr John Sinclair from local conservation group, Fraser Island Defenders Organisation, said he believed the boys fled, but were pursued by the animals.

The seven-year-old boy escaped unhurt and raised the alarm. The father of the nine-year-old raced to the scene with his own seven-year-old son.

The pair found the nine-year-old dead and the dingoes still at the scene. The boy's seven-year-old brother was then attacked by a dingo and suffered multiple bite marks to the arms, legs and body, police said.

He was airlifted to the Hervey Bay Hospital and was expected to be released late this afternoon.

The police spokeswoman said officers from Hervey Bay have gone to the island to investigate.

Police threw up an air exclusion zone over part of the island to prevent television cameramen and photographers encroaching on the scene before investigations had finished.

The Queensland coroner is also expected to investigate the death.

One report said the dingo responsible for the fatal attack had been found and shot, although according to Sky News rangers are still tracking the animal. Sky News also reported that the dingo had been responsible for previous attacks.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said two dingoes were involved in the fatal attack and began following the two boys as they were walking.

He said the seven-year-old who survived the attack had given clear descriptions of the dingoes to park rangers.

Mr Beattie said a risk assessment would be conducted to see whether all dingoes on the island should be destroyed.

Outside a cabinet meeting on the Gold Coast today, Mr Beattie extended his sympathy to the families of the two boys involved.

"Police have taken full control of the situation here and the matter will be fully investigated," he told reporters.

"Some 30 to 40 dingoes have been destroyed on Fraser Island over the last 10 years."

The Fraser Island Defence Organisation warned of the increasing danger to people from the island's dingoes in a recent newsletter.

"...the number of dingo incidents has started to increase alarmingly. Two dingoes were killed by rangers in October, 2000, for harassing tourists...FIDO wants to see the situation revert to what it was only 20 years ago when dingoes were timid and afraid of humans," the group warned in a recent newsletter.

Mr Sinclair said dingoes had become dangerous because tourists were flouting rules and getting too close to the animals. He said strict fines should be introduced for people seen taking close-up photographs of the dingoes.

"Befriending dingoes is going to kill people," Mr Sinclair said.

While not wanting to allocate blame for yesterday's attack, he said the boys should not have run from the animals.

"If they didn't run they wouldn't be where they now are," he said.

Fraser Island is famous for its dingo population.

But signs warning tourists of the dingoes are posted around the island. People are warned to keep away from the animals, and not to feed them.

Copyright © The Age Company Ltd 2001.

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