Existing methods of reducing livestock depredation are heavily biased towards lethal control. However, criticism regarding the efficacy of such practices is rising. In Australia, over 200 years of lethal control has done little to resolve the conflict between dingoes (Canis dingo) and livestock producers. That is, killing dingoes does not necessarily prevent livestock losses. Rather than continuing with lethal control programs, there is an opportunity to shift to more innovative, effective and ethical non-lethal measures of protecting livestock from attacks. Traditionally, buffer zones (areas surrounding livestock enterprises or national parks where attempts are made to eradicate all dingoes entering that zone) have been put in place as a means to limit conflict. Although seen as more strategic than indiscriminately baiting over large areas, targeting dingoes in buffer zones does not necessarily remove problem animals. In addition, dingoes from outside baited zones eventually fill any territorial voids created. In order to break this cycle, we propose amending the traditional approach, so that instead of killing dingoes in these sensitive zones, they are excluded from production areas or otherwise discouraged from interacting with livestock (what we term ‘living buffer zones’). This can, in principle, be achieved through adoption of a suite of non-lethal management approaches, including aversive conditioning, which to-date has not been widely examined. In turn, resident dingoes conditioned to avoid livestock and/or livestock areas will maintain territories that largely exclude non-resident dingoes. Occasional ingress by transient dingoes will be met by the same exclusion and aversive strategies and are likely to quickly move on if harassed by resident dingoes. Such a strategy takes advantage of our ever-increasing knowledge of dingo biology and behaviour and leverages well established principles of animal learning. By funnelling funds currently spent on killing dingoes into experimental investigations of non-lethal approaches, we conclude that significantly more livestock will actually be saved.
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Vol. 45 • No. 1