Dingoes took my baby?

Posted by barbara on June 17, 2012


No, this is not a dingo but an domestic dog (wearing a collar, actually) hoeing into the carcase of a dead sheep on a property in the back blocks of Tenterfield, NSW in 2011. I've featured this photo because i) I don't have any images of dingoes, and ii) there is a continuum between dingoes, hybrid dingoes (resulting from interbreeding dingoes and wild and/or feral dogs), and 'uncontrolled' domestic farm dogs.


It strikes me as odd that in the wake of the recent pronouncement that a dingo did indeed take the Chamberlain's baby daughter, Azaria, a number of pundits are excusing their one-eyed insistence that Lindy killed her child because no one at the time believed that dingos were capable of killing a child.

While the general public may have been unaware of the risks in the early 1980s, wildlife experts had fewer doubts about their capabilities when it came to preying on other animals, including native and introduced species.

According to a Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dingo), research into the dingo's diet indicates that in the wild, around 80 per cent of its prey centres around 10 key species. These include eight native species, namely the red kangaroo, swamp wallaby, dusky rat, magpie goose, common brushtail possum, long-haired rat, agile wallaby and the common wombat. In addition, they routinely prey on introduced cattle and the European rabbit. In addition, water buffalo and feral pigs are not immune to their predation. 

Compared to the dingo's relatively modest size, the majority of these prey are not small animals. And it has long been known that dingoes hunt as as a team where sizeable prey are concerned. If two or more dingoes can bring down a 'Big Red' kangaroo, it is not hard to understand how two or more hungry dingoes, especially during a time of drought and lean pickings in the vicinity of The Rock, could team up to snatch a child and carry it off to their lair.

Perhaps the 'we didn't know' argument is a red herring of sorts, designed to downplay the real reason that so many Australians were so convinced that Lindy did it. After all, the Chamberlain's response to the death of their baby daughter didn't tally with how a so-called normal grieving family might be expected to respond.

To outward appearances, and their discredit at the time, Lindy and Michael were unemotional and matter-of-fact, actively sought to help the searchers and police, and postulated theories about the fate of their infant daughter.

Following the June 2012 'dingo took the baby' verdict, a handful of reporters who were involved in the various trials have pointed out how the couple's behaviour came across as odd, and hence, suspicious.

To what extent, however, did the majority of Australians baying for Lindy's downfall at the time understand and appreciate the extent to which loyal followers of a religious faith might accept unquestionably what life deals out to them as the specific will of their god? Perhaps the Chamberlain's automatic and only way of coping with Azaria's tragic death was to view it as an act of god, or as Seventh Day Adventists, their saviour, Jesus Christ. If they truly believed that their daughter had been called by Jesus by an act of nature in the form of a so-called wild animal, then who were they to question his will?

After all, Michael Chamberlain was a church pastor, and as such, his job was to guide his congregation and to offer them support and succor during their most difficult times.

If the Chamberlains had truly believed that their daughter had died as a result of a 'higher' decree, it is perhaps less surprising that in their dealings with the outside world, they remained confident that Azaria's disappearance was 'for the best', however bad that sounds.

In their minds they were totally innocent, as they have been proved to be by more recent evidence of dingo attacks in popular Australian tourist areas where visitors routinely ignore instructions not to feed wild animals, including dingoes. All well and good, but at the time they came across to the wider community as more callous than caring.

Whatever the reasons for their outward stoicism and confidence in their spiritual beliefs, surely the bottom line of the Deputy Northern Territory Coroner, Elizabeth Morris' verdict was that a dingo entered the tent and took Azaria, apparently standing on Aiden in the process. A dingo may have taken the Chamberlain's baby, but it sounds like more than one might have been involved in the 'kidnap' and death of Azaria Chamberlain.


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