Meet Australia’s wild dogs – the dingoes

Meet Australia’s wild dogsthe dingoes

Despite their popularity within Australia itself, few outside know about dingoes and, even if they do, few know more about them than just their name.

A dingo catching a quick snooze on their habitat platform at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Video taken by Zoolife community member fireworkgirl.

Did Zoolife add… dogs… to their map? Well, sort of! Australia is home to countless amazing species – some you may be familiar with and some you may not. Despite their popularity within the continent itself, few outside know about dingoes and, even if they do, few know more about them than just their name.

At the most basic level, the dingo is Australia’s wild dog. The origin of the dingo is still a heavily discussed subject, with multiple beginnings, but the majority of research points to them having descended from an ancient breed of domestic dog introduced 4,000 years ago by Asian seafarers. Other research points to a possible land bridge introduction form Papua New Guinea. The most likely scenario, however, is a combination of the two.

Two members of Lone Pine's dingo pack keeping a watchful eye of their habitat. Photo taken by Zoolife community member tiredturtle32252.
Two members of Lone Pine’s dingo pack keeping a watchful eye of their habitat. Photo taken by Zoolife community member tiredturtle32252.

So…what is a dingo?

The ancient breed of domestic dog, like all domestic dogs, was descended from the grey wolf (Canis lupus). Depending on the source, you may see dingoes’ scientific names referred to as Canis familiaris dingo or Canis lupus dingo.

While marsupials seem to reign supreme in Australia, the dingo is a placental mammal – meaning this species gives birth to live young, feeds its young milk via mammary glands, and has fur/hair. A dingo’s coat can be a range of colours depending on where in Australia it is found. For example, in forested areas, the fur appears as a dark tan close to black; while in desert areas, the fur appears more golden yellow.

Dingoes inhabit a variety of habitats within mainland Australia but seem to have not spread as far out as Tasmania. The species is also rarely seen in New South Wales, Victoria, the south-eastern third of South Australia or the southern most tip of Western Australia.

In terms of size, dingoes are the largest mammal currently found in the wilds of Australia. The second largest being the red kangaroo.

The three dingo pack of Lone Pine laying together on their habitat platform.
The dingo pack of Lone Pine – Tanami, Jindy, and Stirling. Photo taken by Zoolife community member purplesheepbaa.

Packs of the outback

As opportunistic carnivores, dingoes will eat a wide variety of prey although they have historically preyed mostly on wallabies and kangaroos. They will also eat feral pigs, wombats, rabbits, rodents, and even birds or lizards. When native species are scarce, dingoes have been known to hunt domestic animals and farm livestock leading to farmers having a negative perception of the species. Most infamously, they are believed to be a contributing factor to the extinction of mainland thylacines due to competition for food sources. 

Despite often being seen alone, dingoes are social animals and usually belong to a pack. Strict hierarchies keep the packs in order as the dingoes within it  work together to not only hunt but also raise pups and defend their territory. Typically nocturnal in warmer areas, dingoes will lean more crepuscular (aka active in morning and evenings) in cooler areas

Like all dogs, dingoes lean heavily towards vocal communication. Dingoes use howling to defend their territory and to send warning signals to their pack. Another form of communication utilized is scent-rubbing to mark territorial boundaries.

Two of the dingoes sleeping together on the habitat platform.
Photo taken by Zoolife community member TeaLeaffe.

A changing future

Since their introduction to Australia approximately 4,000 years ago, dingoes have efficiently adapted to a wide variety of habitat types within the continent. Threats to the species, until recently, have not been too widespread – with the exception of some pushing for their eradication due to being considered farming pests. Under the Rural Lands Protection Act, the dingo is subject to government-funded trapping, baiting and hunting bounties. Additional threats exist from private culling, wild dog fencing, and contact with the domestic dog

Today, like many native Australian species, a major threat is habitat loss and human encroachment. Contact with other breeds of domestic dog can lead to disease or dilution of their existing genetics. This has been sparked by the push of urban settlement from coastal areas and into outback Australia which allows for increased interbreeding between the two.

Jindy and Stirling Play Tug-o-War with some meant. Video recorded by Zoolife community member Tealeaffe.

Meeting the Lone Pine pack

With over 90 years of experience working with native Australian species, Lone Pine is dedicated to excellent welfare for dingoes. The sanctuary collaborates with universities, government, students and other reputable organizations, and over the years has contributed to hundreds of wildlife research projects. The Zoolife cameras at Lone Pine feature the three dingoes who call the sanctuary home named Tanami, Jindy, and Stirling. With a range of personalities, they are a delight to see each day.

Want to help support Zoolife’s partners and learn about wildlife conservation from the comfort of your own home? Visit Zoolife today to support them through a Zoolife subscription!

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Koalas aren’t bears but they ARE an icon 

Koalas aren’t bears but they ARE an icon

Recognized worldwide as a symbol of Australia, koalas are an adorable animal thought of fondly by people from around the world. But, there’s more to them than meets the eye.

A koala munching on some eucalyptus leaves at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Clip taken by Zoolife community member chelseajohn.

Most importantly, koalas are not bears. This popular misconception likely has grown from their bear-like appearance (especially the rounded ears) but, they’re not bears. Koalas are members of a group of pouched mammals called marsupials which also includes kangaroos. Just like kangaroos, koalas have pouches and give birth to underdeveloped young. This isn’t the only misconception that we need to clear up. 

Koalas can sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Because of this, people often refer to them as lazy – but, that’s far from the truth. Eucalyptus, their main source of food, is low in nutrition so koalas need to sleep a lot to conserve energy.

Now that we have those two big facts out of the way – let’s learn more about this beloved species from down under. 

Two koalas snuggling in a ball on a tree while they sleep.
Koalas can sleep for up to 20 hours a day. Phone taken by Zoolife community member Psyckoda.

Eating and napping and repeating

With specialized teeth for chewing tough leaves and bodies shaped for napping in branches, koalas are well-adapted for life in eucalypt forests. Their specialized diet focuses on leaves, eating from approximately 50 of the 800 species that grow in Australia. Although koalas can be found in a variety of woodland types, ultimately their habitat is defined by whether it has their select group of food trees. Toxins from leaves are no problem for them as they have adapted the ability to flush out toxins from leaves, so they can chew their way through pounds of them daily without getting sick.

A koala sitting on a branch with one leaf sticking out of its mouth.
Koalas have a specialised diet of eucalyptus leaves, eating approximately 50 of the 800 species that grow in Australia. Photo taken by Zoolife community member AmusingAmur56591.

Living that marsupial life

Being marsupials, koalas give birth to underdeveloped young. They finish developing in their mother’s pouch over six to seven months. Many other marsupials, like kangaroos, have upward facing pouches but koalas do not. Instead, koalas have a pouch that opens toward their hind legs. This strange switch comes from the koalas burrowing ancestors where having such a pouch placement would help prevent dirt and other debris getting inside. Although the modern-day koalas now live in trees, they still have the primitive, back facing pouch.

As asocial animals, bonding exists only between mothers and their young. Koalas communicate by making a deep growling or grunting noise known as a bellow. This sound is used by males to attract females or intimidate rivals.

A koala lounging in the fork of a tree, sitting up and hanging out with its front arms.
The koala is native only to Australia and can be found on the nation’s eastern side from northern Queensland to Adelaide in South Australia. Photo taken by Zoolife community member TiredTurtle32252.

Meeting the world’s first koala sanctuary

The biggest threat to the existence of koalas is habitat loss caused by urbanization, agriculture, droughts and associated bushfires, and climate change. As their trees disappear, so do the koalas. But, thankfully, there are many dedicated organizations working to keep this iconic species around.

As the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine is dedicated to the species’ research, welfare, & conservation. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary opened in 1927 and is named after a hoop pine that still stands today by its front entrance. It is said that the single pine tree used to be a location marker for guests visiting the sanctuary via the Brisbane River, mooring their boats at the lone pine. The tree was originally planted in 1867 when the property was a cotton farm.

Koalas lounging awake in trees.
As the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine is dedicated to the species’ research, welfare, & conservation. Photo taken by Zoolife community member TiredTurtle32252.

Lone Pine has since grown into a world renowned location for these marsupials and more. The sanctuary collaborates with universities, government, students and other reputable organizations, and over the years has contributed to hundreds of wildlife research projects. The Zoolife cameras at Lone Pine currently feature fifteen of the koalas who call the sanctuary home. With a range of ages, unique names, and personalities, they are a delight to see each day. 

Want to help support Zoolife’s partners and learn about wildlife conservation from the comfort of your own home? Visit https://www.zoolife.tv/lpks today to support them through a Zoolife subscription!

Read more Zoolife blog posts here!