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It’s A Dingo’s Life At Durong

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"Honey", a ginger Alpine dingo, and "Mabo", a white dingo bred in NSW, get friendly with Dingo Simon

February 13, 2014

Death threats and a poisoning attack haven’t deterred Durong resident Simon Stretton from his love of Australia’s native dog, the dingo, and from his enthusiasm to build better public understanding about the animal.

“Dingo Simon”, as he likes to be called, set up the Durong Dingo Sanctuary about four years ago after being involved in dingo breeding programs in Victoria for 17 years.

You would think that a sanctuary focused on preserving an Australia native animal wouldn’t be controversial, but that wasn’t the case when Simon launched his idea in 2009.

South Burnett councillor Damien Tessmann was outraged at the time, comparing the decision to breed dingoes in a cattle grazing area to “building a brothel next to a school”.

Other local voices weren’t so measured. Simon received three death threats and someone baited and killed one of his animals, a dingo named Wongee.

Since then Simon – who ironically was also running Droughtmaster cattle – has increased security on the property, including the installation of surveillance cameras.

The Durong Dingo Sanctuary is officially a zoo. It is registered for film and TV work, educational and display purposes and breeding.

Simon has 17 dingos, all registered with Biosecurity Queensland. They are microchipped and have been DNA-tested for purity.

The animals are kept in special pens, behind 2.4m walls and enclosed by electric fences. Each pen has double entry doors and are kept padlocked.

Many of the animals are rare.

A very special dingo at the Sanctuary is Kirra, the only surviving dog from the original Hook Point pack on Fraser Island, who has been the focus of a breeding program by Simon to help preserve her genetics.

"Macka" ... one of the pups bred from Coda and Kirra

Dingos are not a dog. Their official scientific name is Canis lupus dingo.

In comparison, domestic dogs are considered a different species, Canis lupus familiaris.

Modern genetic testing points to them being descended from East Asian dogs.

The origin of dingos in Australia is a bit of mystery. While some sources suggest they have been here for about 4000 years, Simon believes they may date back as far as 18,000 years.

There are four different types: Alpine, Desert, Tropical and Fraser Island; and while 80 per cent of pups are ginger in color (the typical dingo that we all know), black and tan make up about 18 per cent and white are less than 2 per cent.  Pups of different colours can occur in the same litter.

The “typical” dingo has “opera house”-shaped ears, a white tip on his tail and white socks, but the absence of any of these features does not necessarily mean they are not pure-bred. This can really only be determined by genetic testing.

Simon said dingoes only breed once a year and usually have four to six pups while feral domestic dogs can have more than 10 pups twice a year.

Their natural prey in the wild are wallabies and kangaroos, and as a top-level predator they play an important role in controlling the numbers of these species.

And despite the much-publicised case of Azaria Chamberlain, humans are not their natural food.

“They are not the killers that people portray,” he said.

“They are very gentle animals, very curious.”

Simon said the animals farmers saw on their properties were nearly always wild feral dogs – the descendants of escaped working or pigging dogs. The dingoes would be there, but they would be shy and hiding in the background.

But he admits they can be a law unto themselves.

“They are like a cheeky monkey in a dog suit,” he said.

The way the animals communicate intrigues Simon. They use tail gestures and vocalisations but they can behave almost as if they have mental telepathy.

Three years ago Simon bred the first legal dingo pups in captivity in Queensland however Biosecurity Queensland won’t allow him to breed any more at the moment.

This frustrates Simon, particularly when he sees other Queensland wildlife sanctuaries importing dingo pups from interstate when they could be sourcing Queensland animals from his program.

However Simon now hopes to build on the educational aspects of the sanctuary. He has approached local schools and last year 13 students from Cherbourg State School visited.

He has also been working with Save Fraser Island Dingoes Inc (SFID) and has a dream that one day an animal care clinic could be established on Fraser Island which would be funded by tourists paying to have a “dingo encounter” with his animals in a controlled enclosure.

He would also like to introduce the genetics from his dingo-breeding program into the Fraser Island dingo population, which he believes is at risk of extinction because of in-breeding after culling.

NB. Keeping a dingo in Queensland without a permit is illegal and can attract a $30,000 fine.

  • The Durong Dingo Sanctuary is open five days a week, but by appointment only. For more information, contact Dingo Simon by email

[UPDATED with correction]


Dingo Simon with "Coda", a black and tan wild-bred Tropical dingo from north-west of Cooktown in north Queensland; Coda has had a chequered history ... originally taken from the wild and kept illegally by a family, he was placed at the sanctuary for his own protection but his former owners, unwilling to give him up, broke in and allegedly assaulted Simon and stole Coda but Simon has managed to get him back

Electric fencing surrounds the dingo enclosures

"Honey" and "Mabo" explore their enclosure

The largest of the dingo enclosures includes a dam where the dingoes can frolic ... Dingo Simon has tried to make this approximate the conditions on Fraser Island in the hope that one day some of the dingoes may find a home there in an educational facility for tourists

Video shot at the Durong Dingo Sanctuary

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16 Responses to It’s A Dingo’s Life At Durong

  1. Delta

    I have visited this wonderful Sanctuary and it is a great experience to see these animals in a natural setting but also up close and personal.

  2. Andrea

    What a rare privilege to visit this Sanctuary. To witness different levels of dingo development and play and social interaction in an environment where they are happy and safe and well cared for. Plus to have the rare opportunity to pat them and experience them in a safe environment – both for self and the dingo. Highly recommend to visit this Sanctuary and have a bespoke experience of the the Australian Native Dingo.

  3. Lorna Kemlo

    We have a dingo called Amber from the Dingo Sanctuary in Melbourne. We’ve had Amber for six years in WA. Been a great experience and certainly love their uniqueness.

  4. Ruth

    Have also visited this sanctuary on several occasions and returned to take friends with me. The delight of mixing with these animals is not to be missed. Fun, loving, playful, timid… all of these. And to see and hear a dingo pup do its first howl at night with the others was such a special moment. He looked like a little Teddy bear, trying to be one of the big boys.

  5. Dingo Simon

    I’d like to thank for taking the time to come out and meet my dingoes for the very first time, for writing this article and for listening to my stories about them. Many families have come here to see the dingoes and are quite taken with the friendliness of Coda, Honey and Mabo. I am in the process of seeking funding to build some more enclosures so if anyone is interested in sponsoring a dingo or would like to lend a hand, give me a hoy and see if we can work something out. Any contribution will always be gratefully accepted. Thanks.

  6. Debbie Wardle

    You’re an inspiration! This is an amazing story that needs to told more widely. I’m astounded that the State and Federal Government isn’t providing funding for the sanctuary in an effort to preserve this unique and endangered species and support the work of someone who has dedicated his life to their preservation and has unfathomable knowledge of their unique characteristics through first-hand experience. I guess it’s fair to say that the governments of this country have never valued original Australians. Here in Western Australia the government openly kills and hunts the Great White, an endangered and native species to our Australian waters. The work you do in collecting data and recording the characteristics of the dingo, the personal sacrifice that you have made, your endless dedication and the knowledge that you have is irreplaceable. Usually the government pays attention when something becomes “good for business”. I hope you might be able to raise your awareness and gain support by making this “a must see for all tourists and Australians alike”.

    • Dingo Simon

      Thanks Debbie. I just do the best I can given within my limited financial means. Having said that, I have had many people come out and volunteered their bodies to do hard work. It is all very much appreciated.

  7. Skye

    Great article highlighting the great conservation work of Dingo Simon. I know Simon personally and have visited the sanctuary on two occasions so far – the second time with my 12 month old son. The dingoes are beautiful creatures & I had no qualms whatsoever about my son “meeting” them. Despite the setbacks, threats & negativities, Simon has done an amazing job with building new enclosures & creating more awareness about our native Dingo- well done!

    • Dingo Simon

      Thanks Skye. I have another two yards to complete. Just have to find the $$$ to buy the chain wire, so you and Jake will be most welcome to come out again, and we’ll take heaps more photos of Jake.

  8. Sandra Kracke

    What beautiful puppies you have there. Mabo is a handsome boy. I would love to come out and meet them. Have you thought about creating a Facebook page where people can follow some of these treasures’ activities? You could also possibly ask people to sponsor through this page, and they can get regular updates and pictures. I would be happy to assist if you like. Regards, Sandra

    • Dingo Simon

      Gidday Sandra. Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you liked my dingoes. Most of what I have done with the dingoes you will see in my videos on YouTube. I have sought sponsorship in the past but have been unsuccessful. I have even asked most of the butchers in town if they would like to sponsor the chicken frames I feed the dingoes, but alas unsuccessful. I understand they have to make a living, too. You are most welcome to come out and visit the dingoes. Wear long jeans, some of them like to climb on you and give you a kiss.

  9. Leon Harrison

    Hi Dingo Simon. I liked the info you provided on Durong Dingo Sanctuary. I live in Perth but would like to visit sometime. Really like what you are doing to educate people regarding Australias Native Dog. Have you heard of Basenjis and Shiba Inus, two breeds of domestic dogs with Dingo traits? Neither breed barks but communicates via whining, growls and other typical Dingo noises. Check them out on YouTube. All the best in what you are doing.

  10. What a great job you are doing! Where is your sanctuary? I would love to visit. I love dingoes and respect them for themselves and for their contribution to conservation of natural environments in Australia.

  11. Rebecca

    I would like to say what you have done and doing is amazing. Living in NSW I am lucky to be able to own two of these amazing animals although my husband and I find that we defend our babies a lot. I hope I live long enough to see the dingo be forgiven for what they have done or for what they haven’t done, like they have the domestic dog which has done a lot more harm and people like, You will make it happen. Keep up the great work.

  12. Craig Sharp

    Hi Simon, just heard about what you are trying to do, in my eyes anyone who wants to save an Australian species is a champion. In regards to needing funding to help you build bigger & better enclosures for you Dingoes, have you heard of “Crowd Sourcing” like indiegogo or KickStarter. This is where you post on the sites what you want to do and people from around the world will donate to help you reach your goal. It has helped a lot of non for profit people like schools put in solar and heaps of others. I think you could be a real candidate for something like this

  13. Bev Stanbridge

    Hi Simon,
    I have just watched the ABC 7.30 program which aired the work you are doing in breeding dingoes. I have lived in on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland for the past 35 years. What we call the “black mountain dingo” has been a relatively common sight until the Queensland Government deemed that they were not dingoes but feral dogs (due to cross breeding with uncontrolled local dogs). However, I am certain that the dingoes I have seen on my block of land are native dingoes. Unfortunately they are being wiped out by constant baiting programs conducted by National Parks rangers. Local farmers are paranoid about dingoes killing their calves though no one seems to be able to cite any instances of having witnessed this occurring. It only takes 1 complaint to Parks and Wildlife and they have to respond with a baiting program. I haven’t seen or heard a dingo for at least a year now and am very concerned that they will become extinct in our area. Do you know if any thing is being done in Far North Queensland to help protect local dingoes? Is your work being done else where in Australia?
    Keep up the great work you are doing but I think we need to change people’s attitude towards these animals in particular the farmers.
    Bev Stanbridge