Monday, January 11, 2010

Dogs and Cars threaten Australia’s remaining Endangered Southern Cassowaries at places like Mission Beach and Ella Bay

Lately I have blogged a fair bit about recent cassowary deaths due to vehicle strike incidents at Mission Beach in Far North Queensland. The 2 latest killings were hit and run incidents which made me question how many cassowaries are hit by vehicles and simply wander off into the bush to die from their injuries, unnoticed and unrecorded.

Domestic and feral dogs also present a major threat to our endangered cassowaries as noted in a recent brochure released by C4 (Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation)
Liz Gallie from C4 brought this matter to my attention again recently.

In my own area at Bramston Beach we have recently endured dog packs hunting and decimating local wildlife so I can appreciate their concern.

It is not uncommon to find domestic dogs roaming through cassowary habitat and hunting as a pack. Here is a photo I took last year (note the collars).
At my own home (Bramston Beach cassowary habitat) feral dogs became such a problem that council officers placed soft jaw traps and destroyed 2 very large and aggressive dogs just metres from the house. One of them is in the photograph below.
Another 3 feral dogs were also killed during the same period at nearby Wyvuri swamp less than a kilometre away.

Believe it or not the problem persisted until DPI feral animal control officer Michael Graham organized a local baiting program covering over 10 properties which brought feral dog populations down to tolerable levels.

The use of baits, particularly 1080, disgusts me however the alternative which was to allow the continued decimation of our local wildlife was no longer an option.

Within months smaller marsupials could be seen again in our area and Agile wallabies and Rufous pademelons returned to their previous haunts.

That said, I don’t ever want to participate in another baiting program and I place the blame for the feral dog problem squarely at the feet of irresponsible dog owners who dump their dogs and pig hunters who lose their pig dogs when hunting.

Well that’s enough from me lets get back to Liz Gallie and c4 and the emails I recently received.

I would like to bring to your attention the serious environmental harm that is being allowed to occur at Mission Beach.

Is it legal to breed and advertise dogs for profit, especially hunting dogs, in a high biodiversity area that has a state and federal recognition of dog attack being a major threat to an endangered species?

The local vet commented on cassowary dog attack in the Tully Times news article attached.

Local, state and federal laws are either not being enforced or do not exist to protect an endangered species that in the entire wet tropics is not believed to number more than 1200 individual breeding adults.

What action is going to be taken now to address this urgent situation?


Liz Gallie

This is the article from the Tully Times, 13 November 2008 that Liz refers to in her email. (Click on the image for a larger view).
The second email referred to a recent advertisement for hunting dog puppies.
I found the contents of this email very disturbing.

Puppies for Sale

A phone call enquiry has revealed that there are 6 puppies for sale. The dogs are living at Wongaling Beach.

The owner of the dogs was not available but her grandmother was able to give some information about the dogs. The puppies’ parents are called Bobo and Lily.

It is confirmed that they are very good hunting dogs as they apparently go hunting every morning for wallabies and pigs.

They are not accompanied on the hunts.

Read about the Bandog

and the wolfhound

It is with great concern that the keeping and backyard breeding for profit, of hunting dogs is being allowed to happen in our high biodiversity area. Dog attack is recognised as a major threat to the endangered cassowary. Mission Beach is recognised as supporting the highest density of cassowaries in Australia. It is also recognised as being home to one of the important remaining cassowary populations within the Wet Tropics. (Cassowary Recovery Plan

If we have to wait another year before our local Council recognises the need to be proactive in enforcing current, or introducing appropriate laws to protect the high biodiversity of our area, then I have to question whether the current representatives are worthy to govern over such a special place.

Dog control is only one of the escalating threats to the natural environment and endangered species of our area as a result of the ad hoc overdevelopment that has been allowed to occur.

The public statement by Mayor Bill Shannon that there be consideration for a cassowary breeding program on Hinchinbrook Island in response to the two recent cassowary road deaths supports those concerns. When is this Council going to refer to the Mission Beach Habitat Action Plan as its environmental guidance?

I have been a resident of Mission Beach for thirty six years and am appalled that such serious environmental harm is being allowed to occur to one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Yours Sincerely

Liz Gallie

Before I continue I wish to make one thing very clear ….I LIKE DOGS! Our dog is a trained assistance dog and a much loved member of our family. Too often I read dog stories by dog haters and if you find me critical you will find my criticism aimed at the dog’s owners rather than the K9 itself!

The parents of the hunting dog puppies are familiar and very interesting breeds to me.

My father, (a dog trainer and instructor) has owned 3 Wolfhounds. Finola, his latest wolfhound, although not large by wolfhound standards is quite capable of sitting my 6 foot 2 over 100 kg plus frame on the turf during a bit of rough and tumble play. During a recent lightning strike at my father’s house she knocked a door off its hinges with one hit to get outside. They are big powerful dogs.

Wolfhounds are a sight hound meaning they hunt by sight rather than scent. They have a natural instinct to chase (like a greyhound) and need to be kept on a lead at all times when out. Their large size and chasing ability make them desirable as pig hunting dogs especially when crossed with other breeds.

The following video clearly demonstrates the natural chasing/hunting instinct of the wolfhound. There is a reason why there are no wolves or wild boars left in Ireland!

I am familiar with Bandogs due to my experience in the security industry and they are something else all together.

These massive dog are a cross between Mastiff type dogs and Pit bull terriers according to Wikipedia. The mix was designed to combine the “courage and tenacity of an American Pit Bull Terrier with the large size and guarding instinct of a Mastiff.”

They are a pretty heavy duty piece of hunting dog as the photo below illustrates.
Unfortunately in a one on one fight with a cassowary (and I have a very strong respect for a cassowaries strength and defensive abilities) the smart money is on the dog. Check out the video below if you want to know why!

The smaller dog is a Belgian shepherd and the big dog that looks like a cross between a D9 bulldozer and your worst nightmare is Curly who is of course a Bandog.

Interestingly the Bandog name comes from the fact they were kept on a leash or band. There was a good reason for this!

I am not even going to discuss the issue of hunting dogs being allowed to hunt unattended for native animals in Mission Beach and it’s not a practice I approve of even when the owners are in attendance.

Liz and C4 have every right to be furious about this behaviour.

I am concerned about the popularity and availability of these large hunting breeds as pets as well as working animals. I believe that as many cassowaries are killed by unrestrained pets as there are by feral/hunting dogs. Keep in mind that “Blue Arrow” the last known Cassowary on Mount Whitfield was killed by just 2 domestic dogs.

I have been observing dingo behaviour lately and believe they pose a far lower threat to cassowaries than feral or domestic dogs due to their smaller size and instinct for self preservation. A dingo is not willing to receive a serious wound in its hunt for prey as even a minor injury can lead to its death. These large hunting breeds simply do not have that level of self preservation and their sheer aggression overrides what little they have. This is why pig hunters have to provide their dogs with protective body armour as illustrated below (by the way these hunters were hunting in Ella Bay National Park, click here for that story.)
Did you notice the wolfhound cross in the photo?

At the end of the day dog ownership entails certain responsibilities. It is the duty of our government to enforce and create laws to protect native species such as our endangered southern cassowary from irresponsible dog owners.

Primarily the duty of enforcing local K9 control regulations especially those concerning dangerous breeds falls fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Cassowary Coast Regional Council. Let’s hope they start acting more diligently in the near future.

I am sick and tired of reading about and seeing images of our endangered cassowaries that have been senselessly slaughtered by dogs like the unfortunate bird below.

Cheers Russ


  1. It's very irresponsible to let hunting dogs that are that good at it roam the countryside.

    This is particularly true in an ecosystem that did not evolve with huge carnivorous dogs.

  2. I agree entirely and I beleive that the defence used by cassowaries against dingoes just doesn't work against large aggressive hunting breeds like pitbulls and mastiffs. The size/weight and inertia these dogs can use in their attacks make a dingo look like a Jack Russell.
    By the way your knowledge re dogs and dog breeding is awesome!
    Anyone reading yourself a favour and click retreivermans underlined link above and then "web site" and you will enter a world of interesting dog and wildlife facts and stories!

  3. I was watching one of the later World Safari (Alby Mangels) episodes that had been serialized in the US, and he went pig hunting with two bull terriers and a big Rhodesian Ridgeback/Irish wolfhound cross.

    Feral pigs are a big problem in Australia. They are a big problem in the Southern US, and the most effective way to control them is with dogs.

    But just letting big hunting dogs wander around is a disaster waiting to happen. It's killing off the pure dingo, even if the dogs are doing nothing more than cross-breeding with them.

  4. I must admit I didn't realise that feral dogs were such a problem here. What about feral cats? Are they a problem? I suppose they would pick on someone their own size?? I wonder if they hurt little joeys and the like.

    I am from Brisbane, and until I moved to Innisfail 2 years ago, I was ignorant about pig hunting dogs etc. I actually felt very sorry for the dogs (the ones who get hurt), but after reading this, I will aim my sympathies were it is more deserved... the cassowary.

    I so appreciate your passion and concern Russell. You must sometimes feel like you are fighting an uphill battle. I sometimes wish I didn't know a thing about all this death and destruction.... kinda like an emu who buries it's head in the sand. I know this is a 'sooky' reaction, but I can't bear to think of the suffering these birds go through. Any animal suffering is hard for me to bear, let alone these beautiful birds. But we all need to face reality. I wish I could do something though...


  5. Hey thanks for your comments retrieverman
    Pigs are tricky as they are so damn smart!
    Cassowary proof pig traps are the most effective control method in the wet tropics as dogging only results in dispersal and relocation of pigs in this heavily vegetated country. Trapping is an art with the goal being to capture the whole mob in one hit.
    Check out and also
    In sugar cane paddocks dogs can be great for locating/hunting pigs but in cassowary habitat using dogs to hunt pigs is just asking for trouble.Pig hunter will say "But my dog is trained only to hunt pigs" yet the same blokes wouldn't dream of letting their dogs loose in a cage with a wild pig and a small child I bet! The risk is just too great.

    First Cassowary I ever saw was shot by a pig hunter friend at Speewah near Kuranda after his two dogs attacked and bailed it up in a creek.He cut the fat off the birds back and left it to rot. That was the last time I travelled with a dog hunter though I have travelled with an excellent bow hunters since...
    Yes I'm looking at you Gary Piper just don't get a fat head!
    By the way I never paid much attention to Alby Mangels as I was too busy checking out his travelling companion Belinda Green (I think that was her name)...she was a handsome lady!

  6. Thank you for your comments Amanda.
    Feral dogs are a bit of a problem in this area alright.
    Cassowary Coast Regional Council 1080 dog baited Merryburn estate area on Tully Mission Beach Road area 13 Aug 2009 to 20 Aug 2009. There was another dog baiting 1080 blitz at East Palmerston 25 Sept to 8 October 2009.That's just 2 I know about.
    Feral cats seem to be more prevalent around farming areas eg canefarms though they are present to a lesser degree in the bush.
    I hate seeing any animal suffer whether it be domestic native or feral. I am not looking forward to the Agile wallaby cull at Ella Bay if the development gets the nod as literally thousands of these animals will have to be destroyed and BAAM the Proponents wildlife experts have mentioned this within their EIS.
    Hey Amanda you are doing something you are taking an interest!We live in an amazing part of the world and to see it mistreated and abused for sport or profit gets my blood up!
    We are guardians of this beautiful and diverse area for future generations and our actions will determine the quality of world they inherit.


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