$40,000 dingo dinner
A WILDLIFE photographer who became emotionally attached to a pack of dingoes on Fraser Island and filmed herself feeding them roast chicken and coconuts has been fined $40,000 and sentenced to a nine-month jail term.
Jennifer Louise Parkhurst, 43 of Rainbow Beach yesterday pleaded guilty in Maryborough Magistrates Court to 46 charges under the Nature Conservation Act and Recreation Areas Management Act, despite previously indicating she would contest the allegations.
Defence lawyer Kristy Crabb said Parkhurst became “emotionally invested” in the dingoes known as the Hook Point Pack after seeing three pups die, of what Parkhurst believed to be starvation, in 2008.
Footage that Parkhurst had filmed herself was played in the court as part of the prosecution’s case.
The films showed Parkhurst feeding the dingoes on several occasions, including a scene from Christmas Day 2008 in which Parkhurst’s voice can be heard narrating.
“It’s Christmas Day and the pups are getting a beautiful, beautiful present, something they’ve never had before,” she said. “This is a jailable offence, hopefully it’s not the wrong thing to do, but ... they’ve never had roast chicken before.”
Parkhurst narrated another film sequence after the dingoes had finished their Christmas dinner.
“Well they loved that,” she said. “Three roast chickens, one of them free-range, which cost a fortune. All gone in seconds, but gee whiz they loved it. Now we’ve got presents for them.”
The next segment of film showed Parkhurst hand-feeding the dingoes some gift-wrapped doggy treats.
On other occasions the dingoes were fed bread, raw meat, dog biscuits, cheese and fruit - mostly coconuts, collected from the beach and cracked open for the animals.
The dingoes’ taste for fruit was mentioned by Parkhurst in several of the film sequences
On one occasion Parkhurst’s 12-year-old god-daughter accompanied her to the island.
The film shows the girl eating a packet of chips and a dingo pup aged about six months trying to get the food.
The animal then becomes bolder and nips at the girl’s ponytail before grabbing her singlet and biting the child on her hip area. As the girl starts to cry, Parkhurst is seen growling at the dingo and telling the animal it had been naughty.
DERM prosecutor Ralph Devlin said Parkhurst’s actions undermined the State Government’s Dingo Management Strategy and increased the risk of dingoes becoming aggressive towards humans.
“It was a deliberate and covert campaign in which she portrays herself as the saviour of the dingoes and the rangers as the oppressors,” Mr Devlin said.
“She has, in many respects, a commendable view about the conservation of the environment.
“There’s a range of opinions on the effectiveness of the department’s dingo management strategy.
“Whether the current dingo management strategy is successful or not is irrelevant to her offending.”
Mr Devlin referred to a statement by a zoologist who said it was normal for predators generally and dingoes especially to be “lean and wiry.”
It was the zoologist’s view that feeding wild dingoes would lead to increased harassment of campers for food and increased aggression, inevitably leading to the destruction of the animals.
Five of the six pups Parkhurst interacted with were destroyed by rangers after exhibiting increasingly aggressive behaviour toward island visitors, Mr Devlin told the court.
Magistrate John Smith said it was clear from the recordings that Parkhurst knew she was breaking the law.
He said her actions in taking a child within such close proximity to the dingoes should be condemned.
Mr Smith imposed $40,000 in fines and sentenced Parkhurst to four concurrent nine-month jail terms, wholly suspended for three years.
Parkhurst walked out of the courtroom smiling yesterday afternoon and told waiting reporters that she was “very shaken.”
“It’s been a long, difficult journey,” she said.
“None of it has been pleasant.”
Ms Parkhurst said her next plan was to have a holiday.
“Not on Fraser Island.”