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History of Dingoes on K'gari

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Gabby Boucher
Updated Fri 24 Feb 2023

Dingoes on K'gari (Fraser Island) have a long and fascinating historyThese apex predators have thrived on Australia for thousands of years, particularly on the world's largest sand island, K'gari (Fraser Island). Let's dive into the history of dingoes on K'gari and follow their journey throughout time!

Fraser Island Dingo

History of Dingoes In Australia

The dingo is Australia's only breed of wild dog. These canines are medium-sized with sandy brown fur and pointy ears. It's unknown exactly how long dingoes have existed in Australia, but research shows evidence on the canines on the continent anywhere between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago. 

Dingos are supposedly descended from East Asian dogs and wolves. Studies show that these dogs from South East Asia probably arrived in Australia with ancient seafarers. Over time they evolved to become their own distinct breed of canine, the Australian Dingo.

Nowadays, dingoes can't be found anywhere else in the world; they are just one of the many species endemic to Australia. Dingoes became the main predator in Australia, and over time they contributed to the extinction of many local species such as the Tasmanian Tiger. 

dingo in the sand

How Did Dingoes Get To K'gari (Fraser Island)?

So once dingoes became a common species on mainland Australia, how did they get to K'gari (Fraser Island)There are a few theories. The first is that they swam! K'gari is separated from mainland Australia by The Great Sandy Strait, a long channel in the Pacific Ocean. Thousands of years ago, the channel may have been smaller, meaning it would have been easier for dingoes to make the journey across to the island. 

Another theory of how dingoes made it to K'gari (Fraser Island) is by traveling with humans. Aboriginal Australian culture may date back at least 65,000 years and is one of the oldest cultures on the planet. So these indigenous Australians were definitely around when the dingo was introduced to the country. 

Studies show that indigenous Australians settled on the island of K'gari at least 5,000 years ago. This group is known as the Butchella People, and they named the island K'gari because it means paradise in their native language. The Butchella People, as well as other indigenous groups around the continent, may have had a close relationship with the dingo. The dogs were often domesticated by humans and used as hunting partners and companions. So when the Butchella People arrived on K'gari in ancient times, they may have brought dingos with them!

dingo at sunrise

The Role Of Dingoes On K'gari

After arriving on the island of K'gari, the dingoes quickly adapted to this incredible landscape and became an important part of the ecosystem. They are apex predators, meaning they prey on other animals. There aren't many other mammals on K'gari, so they prey on rats, wallabies, bandicoots, reptiles, crabs, fish, and dead birds or sea creatures that wash up on shore. They contribute to the circle of life and ensure that other animals don't overpopulate the island. 

Dingoes were also important to the Butchella People on the island. Some dingoes were domesticated, and they were called Wat'dha, or the camp dingo. These canines helped the locals with hunting and gathering, and offered protection and companionship. Wild dingoes were called Wongari. Once the Butchella People were tragically wiped out due to European colonization, all of the dingoes on K'gari became wild. 

footprint in sand

Dingoes on K'gari (Fraser Island) Today

Nowadays, wild dingoes continue to thrive on K'gari. Many dingoes on the mainland have bred with domestic dogs, causing their DNA to change over time. But because K'gari is so isolated, the dingoes here are protected. That means K'gari is home to the purest breed of wild dingo in Australia, and they are genetically very close to their Asian ancestors. Domestic dogs are not allowed to enter K'gari (Fraser Island), which helps maintain the purity of the wild dingoes. 

Travelers on K'gari may often spot wild dingoes roaming the forests or the beaches. Studies show that 25-30 packs of dingoes exist on K'gari today, with there being around 3-12 dingoes in each pack. So if you spend a few days exploring K'gari, there is a good chance you may run into one! Admire them from afar, as they are truly beautiful creatures. But do not approach them, as they are wild animals and could be considered dangerous. Also, try to camp in dingo-fenced areas for extra safety!


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