Potential spread of rabies in dingo populations of northern Australia

Potential spread of rabies in dingo populations of northern Australia Thesis

  • Author(s): Gabriele-Rivet, Vanessa
  • Published: 2020
  • Publisher: University of Sydney

Abstract: Australia is free from canine rabies. The spread of the disease in Indonesia has increased the risk of rabies incursion in northern Australia. Remote Indigenous communities, such as those in the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA), contain large populations of free-roaming domestic dogs surrounded by dingo populations, creating optimal conditions for rabies establishment. A cross-sectional survey of NPA hunters revealed that hunting practices using domestic dogs create opportunities for dingo-dog interactions. Dingo purity analyses on scats of canine origin collected in the NPA region demonstrated that dingoes visit areas around the communities, increasing the likelihood of contact with roaming domestic dogs. A scoping review on the ecology of dingoes identified density, home range size and contacts between dingoes, three key ecological parameters for disease spread modelling, as major research gaps especially in northern Australia. Dingo population density and home range size in the NPA were estimated from spatially explicit mark-resight models based on data from a one-year camera-trap study. This study also revealed a substantial temporal overlap and spatial correlation in activity between dingoes and domestic dogs, further supporting the likelihood for disease spread at the wild-domestic interface. A novel spatial stochastic rabies spread model, which incorporated field-derived dingo ecological parameters and landscape heterogeneity specific to the NPA, predicted a high probability (59%) of spread to other packs following the introduction of the disease into the dingo population from a roaming or hunting domestic dog. Outbreaks were generally larger when rabies was introduced during the dry season and in areas around the communities. Overall, this research provides compelling evidence of the importance of improving Australia’s preparedness for a potential rabies incursion in high-risk areas, to prevent serious consequences in remote Indigenous communities.

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Suggested Citation
Gabriele-Rivet, Vanessa, 2020, Potential spread of rabies in dingo populations of northern Australia, Thesis, viewed 02 July 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=23537.

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