A 58-year-old man from Queensland discovered recklessness could be costly, having been fined more than $2000 for enticing and hand-feeding two dingoes at the renowned Eastern Beach, a stone’s throw away from Poyungan Valley, on K’gari, formerly known as Fraser Island. This incident, which transpired on September 7, was captured on video by a bystander and subsequently led to the imposition of a hefty $2476 penalty infringement notice on the violator by the vigilant Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers this past Friday.
The decision to interact and feed these wild animals, locally known as wongari, was a hazardous one that could potentially give rise to a host of problems on the island, as stated by Mike Devery, the Manager of Compliance Optimisation. According to him, the man was fully aware that his actions violated established regulations. Such irresponsible behaviour sets a dangerous precedent for the wongari, as their learned association of humans with food could lead to habituation.
With these fed wongari now linked with an urban source of food, rangers face the challenge of ensuring the animals do not lose their innate wariness of humans, preventing them from approaching people or loitering near camping sites. Devery, voicing his concerns, highlighted that it takes only one habituated wongari to influence the others in the pack – incredibly troubling when one considers the man irresponsibly fed two of these creatures. Devery emphatically stated that enforced fines are necessary if it deters such behaviour, prioritising the safety of the island’s inhabitants and conserving the wongari population.
The alarm bells were amplified due to a wave of recent media attention surrounding dingo attacks on K’gari. Regrettably, it has been necessary to euthanise three habituated wongari in 2023, one as recent as the weekend, due to individuals disregarding established rules.
The repetitive task of advocating the ‘Be Dingo-Safe!’ message has led to extreme frustration amongst the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers. The educational strategy emphasizes the importance of avoiding any deliberate feeding or interaction with the wongari, messages that the man chose to disregard blatantly. Actions like these not only endanger the individual but run the risk of jeopardising the welfare of others and the wongari themselves.
Perturbed island residents and visitors do not tolerate such behaviour. As a testament to their vigilant nature, rangers receive a vast amount of valuable information related to inappropriate conduct around the wongari from the observant public.