A DINGO breeder who accompanied wildlife photographer Jennifer Parkhurst to Fraser Island in 2009 to “watch her at work with the dingoes” yesterday fronted Maryborough Magistrates Court on charges of interfering with the wild animals.
Simon John Stretton, the first person in Queensland to open a private pure-bred dingo sanctuary, was fined $1200 after pleading guilty to one charge of disturbing a dangerous animal and one charge of failing to keep food from animals.
The court heard the Department of Environment and Resource Management brought charges against the 53-year-old conservationist from Kingaroy after they raided Parkhurst’s Rainbow Beach home on August 24, 2009.
Among items seized were video recordings of him and Parkhurst interacting with the “Hook Point pack” dingoes during a trip to the island on August 2.
“In the footage the defendant is clearly seen approaching the dingoes,” DERM prosecutor Peter Kelly said. “He is seen approaching what is known as a natal den, taking photos and walking around. At one stage the dingoes were within a short distance.”
Parkhurst – who was fined $40,000 and sentenced to a suspended jail term last year for her “campaign of feeding the dingoes” – and Stretton were then seen to leave two bags on the ground.
“The dingoes and pups are seen accessing the food emanating from inside the packs,” Mr Kelly said.
The court heard Stretton had no idea he was breaching the Fraser Island’s Nature Conservation Act when he approached the animals with Parkhurst.
“I went over to the island as an observer ... obviously what I’ve done at home is ok but on Fraser Island it’s not.”
As for the charge of failing to keep food from the dingoes, Stretton said that was an accident – although he did believe the Fraser Island dingoes were starving.
“I’m very sorry to find myself before the court,” he said.
In 2009, Stretton made headlines when he gained State Government approval to set up the Durong Dingo Sanctuary near Kingaroy.
He has been breeding dingoes for Australian zoos and sanctuaries ever since – including two pups which will soon be delivered to Maryborough’s TESS Wildlife Sanctuary.
Stretton appealed to Magistrate Denis Beutel for a small fine in court yesterday due to limited income from his disability pension.
He said he was still struggling to find funds to fix fencing that was destroyed in the recent floods.
Mr Beutel took into account the small part that Stretton played in the offences before the court.
“It’s clear from the facts you were not a person who engaged in this act over a long period of time,” he said.
“Clearly you are remorseful ... you were unaware of the provisions on the island.”
Mr Beutel said he appreciated the fact a conviction “may well have an adverse effect” on Stretton and ordered that no conviction be recorded.
‘In the footage the defendant is clearly seen approaching the dingoes’ – DERM prosecutor Peter Kelly