1. Search for remains
show that a
mammal weighing ten pounds would normally be totally consumed in less
than twenty minutes by a solitary dingo eating in the most leisurely
fashion. A mated pair would probably consume the same mammal in less
than ten minutes, there being a finite hierarchical order of food
sharing with mated pairs. Two or more immature dingoes
Comment: If the baby was taken by a dingo, it is improbable that any trace would be found more than thirty minutes later.
2. Stomach analysis
Observations indicate that food is digested and the waste excreted in ten to twenty-four hours, depending on the nature of the food and the age of the animal which consumed it. When added to the above notes on consumption time, it can be seen that by about eight p.m. on the following night the waste would normally have been excreted, and nothing could be learned by examining stomach contents later than that time, and probably to twelve hours earlier than that time.
3. Speculation on the strength of dingoes
There has been much speculation as to whether a dingo could carry a weight of ten pounds and, if so, how far it could be carried. Observations show that mammals of about twenty pounds can be carried over long distances with considerable ease, e.g. an adult female dingo was observed carrying a wallaby of approximately twenty pounds; it was carried by the middle of the back with only the tail touching the ground. The distance over which she was observed was about half a mile, for which distance she moved at a trot with no indication that the load impaired her in any way.
adult male was observed
carrying a very large hare up a slope of some thirty degrees, over a
distance of about six hundred yards. On detecting the presence of the
observer, he stopped motiohless for some two to two and a half minutes
assessed the situation. During this time he stood in the characteristic
neck-up attitude with the hare in his mouth. The weight of the hare
appeared to be of no consequence. After satisfying himself that
Comment: A mammal weighing ten pounds is smaller than the game regularly caught, killed, and carried over various distances. Such a weight would offer no hindrance, and it can be reasonably presumed that it could be carried over a long distance with ease.
4. Condition of the baby's clothing
has been considerable
speculation as to whether a dingo could have
(a) I have on three occasions left parcels of meat within reach of my tame six-year old male dingo. On two of these occasions, the parcel was unrolled and the meat extracted from the plastic bag. The paper was torn minimally and only at the point at which the unrolling commenced, and the plastic bag was not torn at all. On the third occasion, the end of the parcel was opened and the meat was extracted. This parcel was wedged in a box along with other parcels and he performed the extraction in situ. Only the end was opened.
(b) A tame three-year-old female has been observed to open a domestic refrigerator, pull out the meat tray, and help herself to the contents. Whilst the refrigerator door did not have a mechanical lock, it nonetheless required a hefty pull in a finite direction to open it. In order to exert the amount of leverage in the required direction, she stood on her hind legs to one side of the door, braced her forefeet on a cupboard, leaned sideways, took the door handle in her teeth and pulled it open. She then changed position, stood on her hind legs again and pulled the meat tray out, again in one finite direction.
(c) During the mating season, I had my six-year-old male and a four-year old female chained to a post. The female was on a chain twice the length of that of the male. Although the female was then post oestrus, the male was still strongly motivated to mate, but the female deliberately stayed beyond his reach. (The females are in eostrus only once a year and the males are sexually active for about six weeks spanning the female oestrus period.) After failing to entice the female within his reach, the male reached forward and took the female's chain in his teeth. He then gave a mighty heave on the chain, taking the female unawares, and tossed her back well within his reach. As she was still scrambling to her feet, he pounced on her and mounted her.
handicapped in making any significant comment on the state of the
baby's clothing as my only information was a very brief TV news
film-clip of the clothing laid out on a table shortly after it was
found. I therefore cannot draw any conclusions, but point out that I
judge the manipulative skills and the cognitive abilities of dingoes to
be very high, far higher than dogs, and probably as high as that of a
young primate. If the baby was taken by a dingo, the presence of soft,
pliable, and probably loose garments would not impede them, and I can
well visualize that they were
5. The zoo experiment
results of the
experiment where a kid goat was dressed in baby's clothing and given to
zoo dingoes would be valid for that situation only, and could not be
reasonably extrapolated as being indicative of the behaviour of
naturally occurring dingoes. The pressure to compete for food is very
much diminished in zoo and sanctuary predatory carnivores, simply
because very palatable food is delivered to them in abundant quantities
every day without fail. Since they have never had to exercise the very
demanding hunting skills on a daily basis in order to survive, these
is an unfortunate but
inescapable side effect on zoo animals that they are natural animals in
physical appearance only. In such an experiment, dingoes which have
lived their entire lives in an area the size of a couple of
Comment: The zoo experiment would not reveal any results which could be reliably extrapolated to naturally occurring dingoes.
6. Saliva on clothing
dingoes are tidy eaters and, in conditions of adequate supply, do not
appear to slaver when eating. In the common sociologically stable
situation of the mated pair, food is shared on an unhurried basis. The
tearing apart and gulping down of a mammal could occur in certain
situations, e.g. in times of dire shortage of prey, or when the
available food is being consumed by a number of immature dingoes of
equal social status. In the latter situation, an overabundance of
saliva could be promoted by hunger or competition. Direct observation
of wild and
Comment: Saliva would not necessarily be present in discernible quantities on the clothing....
and domestic dogs are not particularly valid, tempting as they might
be. The dingo is a natural canid (in fact a wolf, not a dog) which has
to practise its hunting skills on a daily basis and at a very high
level of efficiency in order to survive. In terms of strength,
speed, agility and reasoning power, they compare more readily with the
natural felines, i.e. tigers, leopards, et al. It is easier to
The Ayers Rock dingoes are atypical in one respect of natural behaviour. They have had very close contact with tourists for a long time and have been fed directly and indirectly by tourists. They have maintained all of their hunting skills, plus extended their abilities to acquire food from tourists and their campsites, and you are no doubt aware that they often raid tents in their search for food. Humans, their accoutrements, their tents and caravans pose no threat, and pillaging is not uncommon. This has resulted in a very dangerous situation wherein they are not tame and they are not wild.
In considering the questions:
1. Could a dingo have taken the baby?
2. Could a dingo or dingoes have removed its clothing?
3. Could a dingo or dingoes have totally consumed the baby?
answers, based on many
years of observation of dingoes in their natural
1. Yes, with ease.
2. Probably yes.
Yes, without any doubt.