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Australian animals: the dingo

The Australian Reptile Park recently welcomed five dingo babies to the family.

By Jessica Wilkinson
Published: April 24, 2017

Five new dingo pups - bred from resident dingoes Adina and Fred - have stolen the spotlight at the Australian Reptile Park. We thought they were a bit too cute to handle and it got us asking some questions about the dingo - like how similar they are to domestic dogs and where you can see them in the wild. Mammal keeper at the Australian Reptile Park, Taryn Moore, answered all our questions for us so you can find out a little bit more about the Australian Dingo.

Get to know Australia's dingoes

Video guide: Dingo puppies at the Australian Reptile Park

How many pups does a mother dingo usually have in a litter?

"Generally around three to five but just like other canines, they can have up to 10 pups. Our female Adina has now had three litters, each with five pups."

What do dingo pups eat while they’re growing?

"At first, they start off on their mother’s milk. Then, after about 4 weeks, they wean onto meat and continue with that diet into adulthood."

Can a dingo be domesticated?

"Technically yes, as they are legal to have as a pet in New South Wales. However, this is something that we at the Australian Reptile Park do not recommend. They are extremely good escape artists and can jump over your backyard fence! Also, they imprint on specific people and if someone new is introduced into the family (eg: a new child) they tend to not attach to the new person and they can become rather protective of the original owner."

Dingo puppies, Australian Reptile Park, New South Wales

Are domestic dogs descendants of dingoes?

"No, they’re not. There are many differences which separate domestic dogs and dingoes and their descendants are different species of canines."

Do they bark like domestic dogs? 

"Not really! They make several vocalisations that can sound very close to a bark, but their most common noise is a howl, just like a wolf. Our dingoes often think they are having a conversation with our loudspeaker when announcements are made. Visitors can hear them howling several times throughout the day."

Are they related to wolves?

"It was once thought that they were, but they now have their own scientific name Canis lupus dingo and in 2014 it was recognised that it is not directly descended from either dogs or wolves."

Dingo puppies, Australian Reptile Park, New South Wales

Are dingoes always an orange/reddish colour?

"Opposed to common belief, dingoes are not just the reddish/orange colour that they are famous for. They can be white, which means the dingo comes from the alpine regions of Australia and they can also be black. These dingoes can be found in forest and rainforest areas of Australia. At the Australian Reptile Park, we have an orange female dingo named Adina, and a black male dingo named Fred and many people often ask if they are both dingoes."

Where can I see dingoes?

"At the Australian Reptile Park, of course! Also, most other zoos/wildlife sanctuaries have dingoes in their collections. If your heart is set on seeing them in the wild, your best bet is on Fraser Island which is off the coast of Queensland or right in the Red Centre of Australia around Uluru and Alice Springs. However, they are found all over Australia away from the cities."

Can I feed dingoes in the wild?

"This is something we don’t recommend because, at the end of the day, dingoes are still wild animals and can become aggressive when constantly fed by the public. They lose their fear of humans and actively seek out food where humans are, which can cause a dangerous situation for both man and animal."

Dingoes Adina and Fred, Australian Reptile Park, New South Wales

Is it dangerous to get close to a dingo?

"At the Australian Reptile Park and many other wildlife sanctuaries and zoos, we condition dingoes to interact with our keepers for safety reasons. Our dingoes Adina and Fred are extremely friendly and just love affection. We take our dingoes on daily walks to meet guests and it is their favourite part of the day – they just love the pats. In the wild, this is a different story entirely. Just like any dog that you don’t know, it’s best not to approach them as all animals have different behaviours and personalities."

What do dingoes eat in the wild?

"Much to the sadness of overseas visitors, their favourite food is the kangaroo."

Are they mammals? Or marsupials like other Australian animals?

"They are definitely mammals and not marsupials like many other Australian animals. They give birth to live young and don’t have a pouch like a marsupial would."