A tourist has learned a very expensive lesson after he was fined for feeding biscuits to a dingo.
The 23-year-old Australian man was waiting in line for a ferry on the island of K’gari (Fraser Island), 250km north of Brisbane, when a bystander photographed him brazenly feeding the wild dog – known as wongari in the local Indigenous dialect.
The incident took place in April, however following an investigation from the Queensland’s Department of Environment and Sciences (DES), the man was fined $2300 this week.
“A member of the public told rangers the man was at the front of the vehicle line while he was waiting for the ferry at Hook Point back in April,” DES compliance manager Mike Devery said in a statement.
“The person said the man was ‘brazenly’ feeding the wongari, and given his place at the front of the queue, his offending was witnessed by multiple people.
“Thankfully, the member of the public was able to take photos of the man as he fed the wongari, and they provided them to rangers.”
Mr Devery said following interviews the man “admitted to feeding the dingo”.
“The man told compliance officers that he threw biscuits in the sand to the wongari when he was cleaning out his vehicle.”
While it is a hefty fine, it’s not the maximum a person can cop for feeding dingoes. A court can impose up to $11,500 for the act.
Dingoes are part of the island’s ecology and are protected by law. They also pose a risk to visitors on the island – and feeding them can be detrimental to both the dingoes and tourists.
Mr Devery said around 400,000 people visit the island each year, and a small percentage of those visitors disregard the safety of the wongari and other residents or visitors.
He said the penalties were in place in order to keep people and animals safe.
“Feeding wongari can cause them to become habituated and approach people for food, which can put people and the wongari at risk,” he said.
It is the second time this year someone has been fined for feeding a dingo while waiting for the ferry at Hook Point.
A Brisbane man was also photographed by a member of the public feeding a wongari pup and was fined $2205.
“We take a zero-tolerance approach to the deliberate feeding of wongari because people who feed or interfere with wongari put themselves and other people in danger,” acting compliance manager Adam Northam said at the time.
The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has a legal responsibility to conserve these populations on national parks and protected areas, even though the dingo is a declared pest outside of these areas, according to the DES.
The Dingo Conservation and Risk Management Strategy for Fraser Island uses dingo-deterrent fencing, enforcement (fines) and education campaigns to protect people and to help the dingoes retain a natural way of life.
In order to be dingo-safe, the DES strongly encourages visitors to stay very close to children, not to walk alone, but in groups and not to run.
“It is an offence to feed to make food available to a dingo or intentionally attract or disturb a dingo anywhere on Fraser Island, whether public or private land. Penalties apply,” its safety guide reads.