Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Dogs of War - the Jennifer Parkhurst story

The above video is not the Australian Story segment, but a privately produced video detailing the ongoing starvation and mismanagement of the Fraser Island dingo population.

Frustrated by the Queensland government's failure to work with them, the Save Fraser Island Dingoes group will appeal to the public for information on the treatment of dingoes this year.

(You can donate to the Save the Fraser Island Dingoes campaign on the same page).

The group's lawyers, Ocean Legal, will call on members of the public to provide statutory declarations detailing human-dingo interactions on the island.

Save Fraser Island Dingoes secretary Karin Kilpatrick said there is an urgent need for a study into food sources on the island.

"We need a wildlife study - what is on the island for the dingoes to eat?" she said.

To watch the Australian Story profile on Jennifer Parkhurst visit http://www.abc.net.au/tv/iview/ (FYI it's only online for a short time, after that try Youtube). The transcript appears below.

Dogs Of War - Transcript

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 28 February , 2011 

CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello I'm Caroline Jones. Fraser Island, off the coast of south-east Queensland, is the only place in the world with a population of pure dingos, but some authorities say they animals may be in trouble. Experts disagree about the best way to manage the island, which is mostly national park, and the issue has become highly political. Tonight's Australian Story is about a wildlife photographer whose passion for the dingos set her at odds with park rangers and brought her to the brink of disaster. This is the story of Jennifer Parkhurst.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: It absolutely breaks my heart to be so close to Fraser Island and be separated by this 1 kilometre of water. So near and yet so far. It's very difficult for me to come down the beach these days and look across to the island. I grew up in Victoria and came to Fraser Island quite by accident. Just jumped on a barge one day and went for a trip across and saw that there were dingos there. And that was it (laughs). That's kind of how I came to be at Fraser Island. I though okay that's it, I'm staying.
RAY REVILL, SUPPORTER: The dingos become part of her. If she had her way I think Jen would live with them forever. That's her passion.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: The Fraser Island dingo isn't just any dingo. The researchers found that the dingo is the purest dog in the world and the dingos on Fraser Island are the purest dingos in Australia. They're an extremely important species that we have to preserve. Australia and indeed the word is becoming very concerned that it won't be long before these precious dingos become extinct.
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jennifer has often described it that this is probably one of the greatest privileges in her life. And Jennifer says, haven't I been blessed? What an experience. And to see what it's turned into today.
(Excerpt from Win News)
REPORTER: Wildlife warrior Jennifer Parkhurst was charged with 40 offences for her interaction with dingos on Fraser Island.
(End of excerpt)
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: She's been persecuted and prosecuted, and I mean what, for what?
(Excerpt continues)
REPORTER, WIN NEWS: According to friends, Parkhurst has gone to ground. She is now facing a maximum two years in jail.
(End of excerpt)
RAY REVILL, SUPPORTER: They set out to get her. It was like a hunting pack. They wanted her.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: I have no formal scientific training perse. I guess my connection with wildlife comes from just a deep understanding and empathy for animals. The dingo is a very misunderstood animal and very misrepresented, and I guess I feel the same in some ways.
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jennifer suffered a lot of bullying at school and she used to cop heaps from both boys and the girls. She's very shy.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: I had a really terrific friendship with my mother and we spent time travelling around the outback together. When mum became sick, and then eventually died, because of the trauma from my past and everything, I couldn't cope. And so I shut down emotionally. Mum was only 52 years old.
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: And Jennifer really just could not cry. And then it was that time straight after she said, I can't live here.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: And what I discovered was that once I was on Fraser Island and I was closely interacting with the dingos it did start to heal me. Photography's always been a passion and the dingo is an extremely attractive animal, a very noble kind of animal. And I just found that as a photographic subject they were intriguing and challenging. I'd bring the photographs home and spend some time painting and then sell that lot and then head off and start again.
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The department's first interactions with Jennifer Parkhurst started in 2006, and I think at that stage you could say they were very amicable. We provided early support for her work.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: The more intimate I became with the dingos, the more acquainted with them, the easier it was to get some really fantastic footage, and so in the end I started thinking, yeah I really have to do something with this. I've got to share it with scientists and that was what I started to do.
ALAN WILTON, GENETICIST, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES & PATRON ‘SAVE FRASER IS. DINGOES’: One of the things that's special about Jennifer is that she's been able to examine the behaviour of animals in their native setting for a long period of time at close range. It's very difficult to acquire that sort of information elsewhere, and there's very little in the literature about those sorts of details.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: I'd been observing parents with pups and so forth and as the pups started to grow up I noticed that they were becoming extremely skinny.
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: She saw one of the family young die of starvation and the next family came along and they were on the same path.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: I was really alarmed at the high mortality rate amongst pups. It was really looking like a 90 per cent mortality rate. At that that time there was just absolutely nothing I could do about it. I mean my job, as I began to see my role on the island, was just to record what was happening and not interfere.
(Excerpt from home documentary footage)
JENNIFER PARKHURST: As you know, I'm strictly prohibited from interfering with the dingos in any way. This is the first time in this national park that I've ever patted a live dingo. The only reason I'm doing it is that I know Pepper is dying.
(End of excerpt)
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jennifer had to summon up every ounce of strength to have witnessed five puppies dying of starvation and it's an agonising cruel death.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: What I started to notice was that when the puppy's ears were tagged, the mortality rate just suddenly increased. The ear became very droopy, thus they were unable to hunt effectively because they couldn't locate the source of the sound. And that's when I noticed that they started to starve. Initially I had a fairly good relationship with the rangers but that changed when I wrote an article about what happened after an ear tagging event one year. The rangers involved said that I'd overly criticised them and they took it very personally and I guess that's where the war kind of started.

(Excerpt from ABC News, 2001)
REPORTER: The elder son was set upon by two dingos. Clinton was exploring when attacked. His brother was also mauled as he ran for help.
(End of excerpt)
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: Dingoes have been a management challenge on Fraser Island for decades but in 2001 when Clinton Gage, a 9-year-old boy, was killed by dingoes, everything changed for us.
(Excerpt of continues)
REPORTER, ABC NEWS: The nine year old was dead by the time his father arrived at the scene.
PETER BEATTIE, FMR QLD PREMIER: We won't hesitate to destroy dogs that harass or are a threat to people.
REPORTER: Late today the government confirmed that both dogs had been trapped and killed.
(End of excerpt)
JENNIFER PARKHURST: The government understandably had to do something about that. A lot of dingos were slaughtered in order to make tourists and visitors fell safe again.
(Excerpt of ABC News, 2001)
REPORTER: There's now a push for all of the Island's 160 dingos to be killed.
(End of excerpt)
'DINGO' SIMON, SUPPORTER: Prior to Clinton being attacked, the island management strategy, they had started reducing the food sources for the dingoes. So we now started having a dingo that was starting to get hungry
(Excerpt continues)
REPORTER, ABC NEWS: A quarter of a million people visit Fraser Island each year. The World Heritage area has had its reputation badly damaged.
(End of excerpt)
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The Queensland government had three broad options available to it: a future where there was no dingoes, a future where there was no people, or a future where there are people and dingoes living together under a scientifically based management plan. That was the option that government chose.
(Excerpt of ABC News, 2001.)
REPORTER: The Queensland government is now considering tougher penalties for tourists caught feeding dingos. Rangers will cull more dingos tomorrow, possibly another 20.
(Excerpt of home documentary footage.)
JENNIFER PARKHURST: People in the boat are throwing fish for the pups.
(End of excerpt)
IAN GUNN, VETERINARIAN, MONASH UNIVERSITY & VP NAT. DINGO RECOVERY PROGRAM: The Fraser Island dingo is really a victim of history, as well as location. Since the opening up of that island for uncontrolled tourist industry, the dingoes are really now taking second place. So we've got to look at a balance that is really not occurring at the moment.
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The Fraser Island dingo management strategy has three broad approaches that we rely on - engineering, education and enforcement - to physically separate dingoes from people and the food that can come from people. And it has been successful in terms of achieving safety for visitors and also keeping dingoes alive across the island. We have zero tolerance for any breach of those rules in relation to feeding dingoes and making food available.
IAN GUNN, VETERINARIAN, MONASH UNIVERSITY & VP NAT. DINGO RECOVERY PROGRAM: If a dingo is starving he'll become desperate, he'll become slightly aggressive and he'll move into areas of population, housing, tourists, people on the beach, just to get any food resource.
TRAVIS PAGE, BUTCHULLA PEOPLE: Well that argument about attacking people all comes down to a parent's supervision. Because they're pretty much wild animals, and they're scarce of food, and that little child can also be a meal to that fella's eyes. You've just got to be around them all the time.
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: It is really critical that everybody who comes to Fraser Island follows those really important but simple messages - don't feed dingoes, stay close to your children, and if you are attacked, defend yourself and be assertive with dingoes.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: The media certainly seems to love a dingo story and once they get a hold of one, they definitely over-dramatize it.
DEBBRA RICHARDS, BUTCHULLA PEOPLE: Eight years ago you wouldn't see a dingo showing its ribs but now they've taken the food source away. They're just skin and bone and they're out there looking for food all the time
ALAN WILTON, GENETICIST, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES & PATRON ‘SAVE FRASER IS. DINGOES’: The current management practice seems to be that it should be treated as a wild animal and not interfered with at all. But the past practice on the island has always been that the dingo has been associated with people. It's been associated with the Aboriginal communities on there before white people arrived.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: I'd seen dingoes on the island that were starving. So I made Freedom of Information application for the autopsy reports. I think this was where most of the animosity probably started because once I'd had a look at these reports and analysed them, I was very alarmed. For example, here's a three month old pup that's been shot. And it's reported as being in poor condition. When you're talking about animals that have predominantly sand, grass, tin foil - all that sort of stuff in their stomach, you're talking about animals that are in really bad condition.
COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: It's inappropriate to pick out one or two little bits and pieces out of those 80 odd reports and hold that up as an indication that the population as a whole is starving. Those autopsy reports have also revealed to us that the average weight range of animals on Fraser Island is up around an 18 kilo mark. Now that's well above, two and three kilos above, sighted weight ranges for Northern Territory and other areas across Australia.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: I've come to an autopsy report here and it says, "Cause of death: Rifle-itis".
IAN GUNN, VETERINARIAN, MONASH UNIVERSITY & VP NAT. DINGO RECOVERY PROGRAM: I've viewed the post mortem reports and this confirms that a significant number of dingoes on Fraser Island are starving. Jennifer Parkhurst has managed to collect a valuable source of reference material. I'm just staggered at these photographs. They're virtually skin and bone, there's virtually nothing left to them at all, and it's critical. If I had an animal in that condition, I'd be prosecuted If things go on the way they're going, the whole dingo population on that Fraser Island will become extinct.
COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: Our issues with Jennifer really led up from 2007/2008. She seemed to be having a lot closer contact with dingoes and we started to have reports of those dingoes interacting with people, and aggressively interacting with people and that. Now we raised the issue of her interaction with dingoes on numerous occasions and we were always given the story back that, no, no, no, I never interact with them inappropriately, I've never fed them, I'm doing all the right things.
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jennifer met a guy called Adam Randall, and they started going out together.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: Adam became very interested in my work on the island and observed the dingos with me. They were just starting to get a little bit skinny. And Adam sort of said, look, you know, you should feed them. I take full responsibility for my actions with regards to feeding the dingos because it was definitely something that I didn't agree with and I ended up doing it. So- and I can't say that because somebody else did it that it was okay that I went along with it.
RAY REVILL, SUPPORTER: What Jennifer was doing was compassion and it's no different to what any normal human being that has a heart would do for any animal that was starving
COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: We were seeing her walking out of the bush with a pack of five and six dingoes at her heel and that sort of thing. You know, that's not normal. You know, our rangers were on the beach down there. Jennifer actually drove past in her boyfriend's ute, as soon as that dingo saw that ute, it obviously recognised that car, it obviously had a reason to chase that car, and the reason was once again a food condition response. It's, oh, there's Jennifer's car and I know I'm going to get some food there. You know, it all ended up in 2009 where we're getting some really serious attacks on people down there. We had to destroy five animals. That was the same pack, the same animals that she was interacting with and feeding on a daily basis.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: And I think that the outcome of all of them being destroyed had more to do with the fact that DERM didn't like me than with the fact that the dingos had ever done anything wrong.
COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: That is the absolute last thing we want to do. People don't join a parks agency to be out there destroying native wildlife.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: Even though I did feed the dingos and so forth, I never fed them before Adam came along, and the spilt second I finally got him out of my life I stopped feeding them. End of story.
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Jen didn't want him. That ended on a rather bad note and two weeks later the house was raided.
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: The evidence provided by Adam Randall clearly demonstrated that Miss Parkhurst had consistently and repeatedly offended in terms of feeding dingoes across the island.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: Yeah, I was woken up at 7 o'clock that morning by a knock on the front door and they just came straight into my house and gloved up and began searching. They took hard drives, a computer and it wasn't only my life's work, it was all my personal stuff.
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: Well, from the time of the raid onwards, it probably was the longest 13 months in Jennifer's life.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: During that time, I was just in a state of grief. The pups that I was observing had been destroyed. I was devastated. Absolutely devastated.
(News excerpts from November 2010)
NEWSREADER, CHANNEL 7: Wildlife warrior, Jennifer Parkhurst is facing 40 offences for her interactions with dingos.
REPORTER, CHANNEL 7: Jennifer Parkhurst arrived at the Maryborough Magistrate's Court today with family and friends by her side. The tight group of loyal supporters anxiously awaiting her fate.
NEWSREADER, CHANNEL 7: In court prosecutor Ralph Devlin played 15 videos taken by Ms Parkhurst which showed her feeding several dingos.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: When I heard some of my own narration, in retrospect I can laugh. You know, we all say silly things I guess at the time, but at court I did not find it funny at all and I was quite humiliated and quite embarrassed. Some of the footage that was used just didn't actually tell the entire story. For example, there was the Christmas dinner feast with the roast chicken. But I wasn't actually alone there. What they didn't show in court was that if you keep rolling the video, that Adam was actually standing next to me and he's the one that was handing out the roast chicken. So DERM has kind of given a very biased presentation of that piece of footage.
(Excerpt of home video)
JENNIFER PARKHURTST: Guess they’ll try that. This is a jailable offence.
(End of excerpt)
KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: Obviously the words "it's a jailable offence", was quite shocking and it was quite damning in some respects.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: Saying, "this is a jailable offence", well, you know, I'm talking to Adam, I'm not just saying it out of the blue and it's almost a question, isn't it? Is this the right thing to be doing and indeed straight after that I actually said (Home documentary footage) “Hopefully it's not the wrong thing to do.”
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: Any suggestion that there were mitigating circumstances, it would have been most appropriate for her legal team, her defence, to actually raise those matters before the courts.
KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: The footage showing a child who was having her hair pulled by a dingo on Fraser Island and then subsequently being nipped obviously stirred up some controversy in the media.
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: I understand that the response in the court and in the public afterwards was one of shock, especially given that the circumstances were so very close to those that involved the tragic death of Clinton Gage in 2001.
(Excerpt of Win News, November 2010)
NEWSREADER: Ms Parkhurst pleaded guilty to all the charges before the court today.
(End of excerpt)
JENNIFER PARKHURST: I just started feeling dizzy obviously and just totally panicked. My life was flashing before my eyes.
(Excerpt of 7 News, November 2010)
NEWSREADER: In sentencing, magistrate John Smith said Ms Parkhurst was clearly aware what she was doing was unlawful
SIMON WARD, REPORTER: Jennifer Parkhurst emerged from the Maryborough Courthouse a guilty woman.
(End of excerpt)
JENNIFER PARKHURST: The sentence was nine months in jail, wholly suspended for three years, but with a $40,000 fine.
KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: Certainly in court both the prosecutor and I had only submitted that the fine should be no more than $5,000.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: It's above what DERM even required.
KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: For a sentence to go almost 10 times above the fine that was asked for is very unusual in my experience, and certainly was a cause of shock in the courtroom.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: The magistrate was the coroner on the Clinton Gage case. When they come before a case, they have to come before the case with a fresh mind. It doesn't seem to me like that's what he did.
HAROLD PARKHURST, FATHER: In my opinion they needed to achieve two things: I believe that their aim was to destroy Jennifer and achieve the power to initiate this landmark case, and that's what they've got.
(Excerpt of Win News, November 2010)
REPORTER: Ms Parkhurst claims she only fed dingos under the influence of former partner Adam Randall, who received a $2,500 fine and no conviction recorded.
(End of excerpt)
KRISTIE CRABB, BARRISTER: Adam Randall's sentence was obviously much less than Jennifer's, and for the same behaviour and the same offending, it's quite remarkable.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: Because of the publicity generated, we basically formed a group called Save Fraser Island Dingoes. We've been able to approach the Government and have several meetings with the Government and discuss our concerns.
'DINGO' SIMON: It looks like the Government now have sort of stepped up to the bar a bit, started to make some improvements which we're all happy with.
TERRY HARPER, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: There are examples where we have changed our approach based on feedback from the community.
COL LAWTON, QLD PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE: You know, the issue of the way we're tagging animals, and ears flopping, and animals being too young when they were tagged and that - we reviewed our procedures and I believe we fixed the problem.
DEBBRA RICHARDS, BUTCHULLA PEOPLE: What we'd like to see is the management of the dingoes handed back to the Aboriginal community of that island, otherwise they're just going to cull the whole lot and there's not going to be one pure bred dingo left there, and that's going to be a sad day for us.
JENNIFER PARKHURST: I would dearly love to go back to Fraser Island and continue my work there. I really don't know if that's a possibility for the future or not. For three years, if I do anything wrong, anything indictable, I will go straight into jail, which has basically meant that I dare not go to Fraser Island, because I've been told that if a dingo comes anywhere near me, that that would be enough for me to go to jail. We'll just have to see what happens one day at a time.
The Dept of Environment and Resource Management says research is continuing into Fraser Island dingo numbers, but there is ‘a healthy generation of pups’ from the 2010 season.
Dingo advocates disagree and say there is no doubt numbers are in serious decline.

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