Secret lives of staff: ‘they are very smart and want to be part of your life’
Western Sydney Local Health District’s marketing and graphic design specialist has taken up a challenge few others would dare face.
Joshua Said wants to save the dingo.
Hundreds of kilometres from the outback and the nearest wild packs of this incredible animal, he accepts it will be a hard fight to win.
But that has not stopped the corporate communications specialist based at Westmead Hospital using every minute of his spare time to achieve his goal.
“I had my own pet dingo, dingo-cross, and found it really difficult to get information about just general things, how to care for them, because they are different to dogs,” Josh said.
He established a website in 2014 with basic information such as how to feed and domesticate dingoes.
“That transformed to people contacting me for help for rescue,” Josh said.
Such was the demand Australia-wide for assistance with displaced dingoes, that he soon established the Dingo Den Animal Rescue charity.
“So I decided to change what I was doing and actually register as a charity, and start looking for some property to build a sanctuary to start helping dingoes.”
The Dingo Den sanctuary at Glenmore Park has become a haven for dingoes and something of a tourist attraction.
There are presently 19 dingoes at the sanctuary and others in foster care, mostly in New South Wales.
“It’s similar to taking care of a dog,” he said.
Josh’s charity rehomes dingoes, shaping them into domestic pets, showing people how to care for one through the correct feeding, training and exercise.
“They are very smart, and want to be a part of your life, they want to be with you, around what you’re doing, very switched on and very sociable,” he said.
“They don’t do well being left in the backyard, they want to be with you all the time, so we do lots of different activities, taking them out to different places.”
The charity also enables advocacy work, by teaching people about dingoes, even holding meet and greets on weekends at community events.
There are two types of dingo – domesticated and wild.
Those domesticated dingoes rescued by the charity have usually been surrendered by their owners or have found themselves in the local dog pound.
However, dingoes are not dogs.
Their anatomy is different as is their behaviour.
Compared to the domestic pet dog, dingoes have sharper sight, hearing and sense of smell.
Their ears move independently and can even swivel backwards.
Josh said a dingo’s behaviour is somewhere between a dog and a cat.
And unlike other wild apex predators, like wolves, they can be domesticated.
“Dingoes can domesticate and engage with people but they still have that wild nature, in that they can be independent and they can also be really shy,” he said.
Many of Josh’s displaced dingo rescues come from litters that have lost their parents to culling.
“People will find the puppies that have been left behind, so parents in a pack will get wiped out and the puppies will come out of a den starving looking for their parents that are now dead, and people will find those pups,” he said.
“Pups can be as young as two or three weeks old, just weighing half a kilo, really tiny and we take them in to rehabilitate them.”
The orphans are put with Josh’s dingoes and taught to be at ease around people.
Josh’s fascination for the dingo came from his love of ecology and a desire to save native species from extinction.
“Pretty much everything is under threat, but where do you start?” he said.
“If you start with your apex predator and assist them they then help the whole eco-system.”