Population trend: Decreasing
Australia; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Thailand; Viet Nam
Based on fossil (Olsen and Olsen 1977), molecular (Vilà et al. 1997,
Corbett 2003) and anthropological evidence (Corbett 1995), the early primitive
dingoes formerly had a cosmopolitan distribution (Corbett 1995). The primitive
dingoes were associated with nomadic, human hunter-gatherer societies and later
with sedentary agricultural population centres where the primitive dingoes were
tamed and subsequently transported around the world. Austronesian-speaking
people transported the dingo from mainland Asia to Australia and other islands
in Southeast Asia and the Pacific between 1,000 and 5,000 years ago (Corbett
Pure dingoes have been demonstrated to occur only as remnant populations in central and northern Australia and throughout Thailand. However, based on external phenotypic characters, they may also occur in Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR.
Estimating dingo abundance is difficult because the external phenotypic
characters of many hybrids are indistinguishable from pure dingoes. For example,
populations of ‘wild dogs’ in the south-eastern highlands of Australia have been
fairly abundant over the past 50 years. However, the proportion of pure dingoes,
as based on skull morphometrics, has declined from about 49% in the 1960s
(Newsome and Corbett 1985) to about 17% in the 1980s (Jones 1990) and the pure
form may now be locally extinct (Corbett 2001). Such quantitative data is not
available for countries other than Australia, Thailand and Papua New Guinea so
that the following qualitative estimates of abundance refer to pure dingo and/or
hybrid populations as based on general body form, pelage colour and breeding
In Australia, pure dingoes are common in northern, northwestern and central regions, rare in southern and north-eastern regions, and probably extinct in the south-eastern and south-western regions. The density of wild dogs (dingoes and hybrids) varies between 0.03 and 0.3 per km² according to habitat and prey availability (Fleming et al. 2001). Dingoes are rare in New Guinea and possibly extinct as there have been no confirmed sightings for about 30 years (Newsome 1971, Brisbin et al. 1994, Bino 1996, Koler-Matznick et al. 2000). Dingoes are common in Sulawesi but their abundance elsewhere in Indonesia is unknown. They are common throughout the northern and central regions of Thailand, but less so in the southern regions; considered rare in the Philippines and probably extinct on many islands. Present in Malaysia, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, China, Myanmar and India, but abundance unknown. Dingoes are probably extinct in the wild in Korea, Japan and Oceania, although several local dog breeds share dingo-like characteristics.
Dingoes were formerly widespread throughout the world (Corbett 1995) and although populations of wild dogs remain abundant in Australia and other countries, the proportion of pure dingoes is declining through hybridization with domestic dogs. Estimated populations of pure dingoes and/or hybrid populations can be found in Sillero-Zubiri et al. (2004).
Aboriginal: Warrigal, Warang (northern Australia)
Dingo - © Lee Allen
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Cross-breeding with domestic dogs represents a significant threat to the
long-term persistence of dingoes. Hybrids exist in all populations worldwide
(including Fraser Island, Australia; Woodall et al. 1996) and the
proportion of hybrids is increasing. A related threat to dingoes in Australia
concerns the actions and consequences of ‘so-called’ dingo preservation
societies, dingo ‘farms’ and legislation allowing legal ownership of dingoes by
members of the public because most are based on known hybrids or untested dingo
stock and thus effectively increase the hybridization process (Corbett 2001).
The increasing interest of private individuals and groups in keeping ‘dingoes’
as pets in Australia and other countries including Switzerland and USA, also
poses a threat via human selection of form and behaviour.
Bounties for dingo skin and scalps exist in some regions of Australia. Dingoes are also sold in human food markets in several Asian countries. They are also bred by private individuals and companies in Australia and USA and sold as pets.
or a more detailed summary of the biology and conservation status of this species see the section from CSG's Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dogs - 2004 Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan.