The New Guinea highland wild dog was considered to be long extinct but was recently rediscovered on an island in the South Pacific. Last time they were seen was about 50 years ago and they are considered to be the “rarest, most ancient canid” found in the world at this moment.
It seems that there is clear evidence that at least 15 individuals exist on the island, adults of both sexes and puppies too. Their typical color is a golden brown but there are variations of black, cream or roan as well. These might be a key ancestor of the domesticated dogs and the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation considered this discovery and confirmation to be “not only exciting but an incredible opportunity for science”.
The Story of the Discovery
Everything began last fall when researchers discovered some paw prints in the mud in one of their expeditions and began a survey with cameras and bait in that region. Over 140 photographs were captured of the dogs with their furs of various colors and they were able to distinguish males, pregnant females and puppies.
As it was easier to distinguish them if they gave the dogs names, the researchers are now discussing about Lil Red, Two Socks or Markie. The researchers came from the University of Papua and the Southwest Pacific Research Foundation and they identified the dogs’ tracks, dens and a trail system they use to travel.
The good news is that the dogs seem to be doing quite well in that ecosystem and there were small groups of three or four members as well as solitary individuals. The researchers collected samples to analyze the DNA of the species in more detail and they are considered to be similar to the New Guinea Singing Dog or to the Australian Dingo. The New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation described them thus:
“It is our best example of a proto-canid and is truly a living fossil. It is the apex predator of New Guinea and the most important canid in existence. The HWD is the missing link species between the first early canids and the modern domestic dogs.”
In the future the goals of the researchers are to understand more about the species and to ensure that they are kept in good health. Vaccines are planned to be distributed and the general program is one of observation and study.