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Arrival of purebred dingo sisters in Saskatoon marks a first for Canadian zoos

The manager of the Saskatoon zoo says dingo sisters Maple and Euci are the first purebred dingoes at a Canadian zoo. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

As two sandy-coloured dogs rush to the edge of their zoo enclosure, a man’s voice with an Australian accent calls out to greet them. 

“Hey girls!” says Tim Sinclair-Smith as dingoes Maple and Euci clamber against the chain-link fence. 

Sinclair-Smith, the zoo manager at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo, said the zoo has brought purebred female dingoes to Canada for what is believed to be the first time. 

The dingoes don’t wag their tails, but they show off big toothy smiles as they greet him. Sinclair-Smith jokes that he is still teaching the dogs to be bilingual in Australian and Canadian. 

Like the zoo manager, the purebred wild dogs hail from Down Under. They have travelled 14,000 kilometres to their new home.

dingoes at saskatoon zoo

Dingoes Maple and Euci played tag and ran laps around their new enclosure early Friday morning. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

After one month in quarantine, the one-year-old dogs were finally allowed to be released into their new purpose-built enclosure on Friday. 

“Aw, let me tell you, when we let them out they just went nuts, and a good nuts,” Sinclair-Smith said as a crowd began to gather around the enclosure.

“It was absolutely hilarious to watch. They were running, chasing each other, rolling, playing, just rolling in the grass.”

The dingoes were lively and curious as people arrived for a glimpse of the zoo’s newest arrivals.

One of the sisters crouched down and stalked the other, then pounced. They tussled on the ground before launching into a game of tag. 

Sinclair-Smith said bringing the dingoes to Canada is an opportunity to raise awareness about them and the challenges they face in the wild.

Dingoes considered vulnerable species

Sinclair-Smith said dingoes are still hunted and baited in the wild. He hopes education will help to stop that.  

The dingoes in Saskatoon are called alpine dingoes, one of three types; the other two are tropical and desert.

He said the zoo brought alpine dingoes to Saskatoon because they have a thicker, double coat to keep them warm in Saskatchewan’s cooler climate The pair will still spend the winter months inside.

Sinclair-Smith said the zoo previously had dogs that were believed to be dingoes in the 1960s, but they turned out to be “coy-dogs” that were bred from coyotes and domestic Labradors. 

saskatoon zoo manager tim sinclair smith with dingo

Zoo manager Tim Sinclair-Smith with one of the two dingoes. He says it’s less stressful for the animals if they have a good relationship with humans. Maple and Euci were born and raised in captivity. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

Their new enclosure is the zoo’s former wolf enclosure; the wolves have been moved into a larger space.

Sinclair-Smith added glass panels surrounding the dingo enclosure that he found in an old hockey arena.

No plans to breed dingoes in Saskatoon

Maple and Euci are friendly and tame because they were born and raised in captivity at Oakvale Wildlife Park in New South Wales.

But Sinclair-Smith said one of the sisters will eventually need to be sterilized to stop them from fighting. 

“Unfortunately, female dingoes do not get along well together for life, even when they’re sisters,” he said.

“At some stage they would start fighting and they would fight to the death.”

He said there are no plans to bring in male dingoes to breed with the sisters at a later date. Dingoes often mate for life in the wild.

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