Two years after falling from the sky, Wandi the dingo changes attitude towards his species | australian pounds


Wandiligong the dingo was just five weeks old when he made international headlines after being torn off by a huge eagle and fallen in a backyard in the high mountainous Victoria.

Remarkably unharmed – sore paws and a few claw marks – little Wandi quickly proved to be a 100% alpine dingo – his incredible drop from the sky proves that purebred dingoes continue to survive on Australia’s east coast.

Two years later, the world’s most famous dingo fathered six cubs and became the subject of the first children’s book by award-winning Melbourne author Favel Parrett.

“It’s the most important book I’ve ever written,” says Parett, who has published three novels including the award-winning There Was Still Love.

Book Wandi the Goofy with illustrations by Zoe Ingram. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins / The Guardian

“The stakes are so high, because there is not much time left [before dingoes become extinct]. If I can encourage any kid to love the Supreme Predator for who he is, I’ll be so happy.

Parrett has volunteered at the Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Center in Toolern Vale, since 2019 – the year Wandi arrived.

“I came for a Cub ride, thinking I would just see some cute animals, and the guide brought [dingo] Pumbah stood up and told us that “dingoes can hear your heartbeat, every one of them,” “Parrett said.

“Pumbah looked me in the eye for three seconds, and that’s it.

“It was like being in the presence of greatness. I know it sounds crazy, but an animal whose senses are so much more advanced than ours, in many ways… ”

The Dingo Discovery Sanctuary was founded by Australian Dingo Foundation President Lyn Watson two decades ago on her private property at the foot of the Macedonian Ranges.

Favel Parett, plays with Wandi and Hermione, Wandi's partner
Dingo Discovery Sanctuary, Center for Research and Education volunteer and author Favel Parett, plays with Wandi and Wandi’s partner Hermione. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins / The Guardian

The enclosures overlook acres of private forest – behind them the town, bay and the You Yangs mountain range.

Today, the shrine hosts 48 dingoes and organizes education and research programs, with regular visits from doctoral students and universities.

Some of the ‘born in the wild’ rescues at the sanctuary have traumatic histories – one was smuggled off Fraser Island in an esky and chained outside a car yard as a dog care, while others were born and raised there.

But Parrett says Wandi’s discovery, which has no evidence of domestic dog DNA, was their long-awaited miracle.

“It sounds crazy, but we think it was Wandi’s fate to have come here,” Parrett says.

“In the story of the creation of the Kulin nation, Bunjil is the god of creation and comes in the form of a wedge-tailed eagle… he creates all animals and plants, and humans, and after 80 000 years, becomes the Southern Cross with his wife and son.

“We see Bunjil everyday, there are two wedge tails here… and Lyn once said, ‘If we don’t get a little savage, we can never prove that there are wild dingoes there- low, because we reproduce here ”.

“The next week they said we had a little savage in Wandiligong. It was the greatest thing that could happen to us. We then had the proof. His parents are pure, his brothers and sisters are pure, and we know there is more. It means so much to us. Now we have to fight as hard as we can.

Since his rescue, Wandi’s official Instagram account has recorded over 56,000 likes, along with his own merchandise – for $ 17, fans can pick up a Wandi plush, including a bandana, or, at $ 5 a pop, a pin Custom Wandi.

Pumbah the Goofy, who entertains children on educational visits to the sanctuary, observes a meat fly in his enclosure.
Pumbah the Goofy, who entertains children on educational visits to the sanctuary, observes a meat fly in his enclosure. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins / The Guardian

In 2008, the dingo was listed as ‘endangered’ in Victoria, but in many regional communities dingoes are still viewed as vermin and a threat to livestock and livelihoods.

To this day, their carcasses are hung in trees along rural roads as a form of communication between farmers or a political statement.

Unlike purebred dingoes, wild and feral populations of dogs and dingo-dog hybrids are an established pest in Victoria, commonly referred to as “feral dogs”.

But a University of New South Wales study published this year found that 99% of wild dogs tested were pure dingoes or hybrids with more than 50% of dingo genes.

Hybrids can appear very similar to their purebred counterparts, making it almost impossible to ensure that they are not inadvertently destroyed in wild dog control programs.

“‘Wild dog’ is not a scientific term, to put it mildly,” says researcher Kylie Cairns.

“Dingoes are a native Australian animal, and a lot of people don’t like the idea of ​​using lethal control over native animals. The term “wild dog” is often used in government legislation to refer to lethal control of dingo populations.

Favel Parett Wandi's book
Favel Parett Wandi’s book. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins / The Guardian

Dingoes cannot process grain or fat, and before colonization, they hunted kangaroos by detecting heartbeats, sometimes up to 25m away, from mothers carrying young. Removing dingo populations can lead to increased numbers of kangaroos, which in turn can undermine broader conservation efforts.

UNSW professor Mike Letnic says dingoes play a fundamental role in ecosystem formation, controlling the number of herbivores and small predators.

“The effects of apex predators can ripple through ecosystems and even extend to plants and soils,” he says.

The past three years at the sanctuary have also been a bit of a wake-up call for Parrett, on what sets dingoes apart from their canine parents and other native Australian species.

Nowadays, she describes dingoes as “a cat in a dog costume.”

“They can climb, they don’t bark, they are very flexible. The reason Wandi survived a Fall from the Sky is that when you pick up a dingo they all turn into floppy disks, ”she says.

“And they mate for life in the wild, so strong that when one dies, the other will sometimes die of a broken heart.”

Shortly after Wandi arrived, the shrine matchmakers paired him with the slightly older Hermione. Parrett says her pregnancy was a time of great transformation for Wandi.

“Normally he would try to steal food from her every day, we had to stand there and say ‘no’,” she said.

“Then when she was pregnant he started leaving her food for her, then he started doing this weird beautiful thing where he would accumulate food in the nest box so that she could stay there for days when she gave birth. .

Goofy Discovery Day Manager, Izzy Paholek and volunteer Favel Parrett feed Wandi the Goofy.
Goofy Discovery Day Manager, Izzy Paholek and volunteer Favel Parrett feed Wandi the Goofy. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins / The Guardian

“I saw him take his bowl out of the box and I thought ‘what are you doing’, and he had all these little piles of food… we were so surprised because he’s normally so greedy, but he’s changed. “

Dingoes share parenthood as an equal partnership. The mother provides milk, while the father regurgitates food and watches over eagles and prey.

“It’s really rare for animals to share parenthood, but that’s why they’re so beautiful – they’re so sensitive. The dingoes who died here, their partners are so depressed that they don’t want to eat, they are in mourning, ”Parrett says.

Shrine volunteers still wonder, from time to time, if Wandi’s parents are alive, somewhere in the high country, where decades earlier Ned Kelly had hid in ravines and tall peaks. trees.

They don’t think the odds are high.

“The eagle probably saved his life in some way,” Parrett says.

“We are so grateful that he is here. And now the story is over with her babies and her belonging. He has his family now.

Wandi will be released on Wednesday September 29th with Hachette Australia.

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