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Beyond the Bale : December 2014
ON FARM 37 Earlier this year the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) interviewed representatives from 30 wild dog management groups across Australia to better understand what is needed to support collective wild dog management efforts. The work is being done as part of a broader project on behalf of AWI to explore how collaborative action may help wool producers to remain in the wool industry. Specifically, the aim is to examine the nature of wild dog management groups and how they operate, particularly in terms of landholder participation and what helps or hinders the groups in achieving coordinated and effective wild dog management. The kind of support groups may need in order to achieve wild dog management in future is also being examined. Group representatives were asked to describe their groups including who is involved, what are the most effective strategies, where they obtain support and what further support is still needed. Whilst all the groups participating in the research were affected by wild dog predation on sheep flocks, the degree of severity varied. Some groups were at the frontline experiencing severe predation with producers struggling to maintain a viable livelihood in sheep farming. In these cases, the effort revolves around stopping the problem from expanding to other areas. Other groups were working to maintain a status quo, having seen reduction in attacks and have goals to maintain or increase sheep numbers. Another category of groups were those in areas with relatively minor incursions of wild dogs, who are focusing on preventing the dog problem moving into their areas. Groups were reported to be generally working well with good leadership, communication and conflict management. Communication is often based on personal contact where group leaders recruit participants by building long term relationships with people living in the region. This is no small deal with the range of area covered by these groups ranging from 10,000 ha to 5.8 million ha. A frustration for some group members is that even when they considered their group as working together effectively in the effort to reduce dog numbers, stock losses to wild dogs had not reduced. A view held by many however was that significantly more stock losses would have occurred without the groups’ management activities, because losses had already been on an upward trend. Decision making in these groups is strongly informed by local knowledge, with this being the greatest influence for the majority of groups, in addition to scientific and strategic knowledge (eg government planning and policy). Participants generally reported they had effective collaboration with government agencies. However some respondents reported that reduced numbers of staff and resourcing within state departments had made it difficult to develop and deliver wild management programs in some instances. The transition to greater community and industry based management has in some cases created gaps in wild dog management. Local government in some states is often playing a major support role. The efforts of coordinators are a critical factor in supporting the establishment of new groups and in the ongoing operation of the groups. Participants in the study emphasised the importance of AWI and state coordinators, as well as the national facilitator, in the effectiveness of groups. AWI is also playing an important role in supporting groups with funds for doggers, training and other support. The flexible nature of AWI funding was commended; that is, providing funds for the most important activity as determined by the group (within AWI criteria) rather than the prescriptive use of funds. Providing access to research findings and communicating success stories was also noted by participants as an important role for AWI and other organisations supporting wild dog management efforts. Time is the greatest cost to land managers in managing wild dogs. This time factor is compounded because there are fewer people to participate in wild dog management groups due to declining populations in some areas. Wild dog management groups are also important social networks that help farming communities cope with the detrimental effects of wild dogs. Whilst most groups were uncertain about the details of future resourcing of wild dog management activities in their area, most participants were confident that there was good support from group members in continuing to work towards the shared objective of helping wool producers to stay in the industry. NB: The figures in this article were updated on 27 May 2015. WILD DOG MANAGEMENT KEY SURVEY RESULTS • When asked about the relative impacts of wild dogs in their region using a scale from 1 to 5, 60% of the groups in the study ranked financial impacts as high (a rating of 4 or 5), 56% of the groups ranked social impacts (eg loss of people from the area, personal and family stress) as high and 37% ranked environmental impacts (eg biodiversity loss and environmental degradation) as high. • Between 2010 and 2014, nearly half of the groups (43%) said financial impacts in the area had increased with the remaining groups saying they had decreased (37%) or stayed the same (20%). The degree of financial impact differs for individuals depending on the severity of attacks and therefore is difficult to estimate for an area in general. • With social and financial impacts linked, not surprisingly, 47% of the groups said social impacts had increased. More positively, 27% said social impacts had decreased and the remaining (27%) said they had stayed the same. • In terms of resourcing base operations, almost half of the groups had no membership fees at all, but relied on in-kind contributions (eg time). A number of groups were funded by either an annual membership fee paid by members or relied on funding from mandatory rates or levies from local landholders. Some members contributed on a needs basis. • When asked to self-rate the effectiveness of their groups, 67% said they were highly effective, 27% said medium and 6% said low. Participants based their effectiveness ratings on a range of factors including dog control success, as well as participation levels, commitment and collaboration and degree of democratic decision making processes. SURVEY RESULTS Wild dog management groups across Australia have been interviewed to determine the drivers and barriers impacting wild dog management.