Rare find of PNG wild dogs

Paradise - - Contents - —KEVIN McQUILLAN

For the first time in more than 50 years, re­searchers have con­firmed the pres­ence of New Guinea High­land wild dogs (HWD), liv­ing at high al­ti­tude at Pun­cak Jaya in In­done­sia’s Pa­pua Province.

The HWD, sim­i­lar to the New Guinea Sing­ing Dog, is pos­si­bly one of the rarest, most an­cient canids cur­rently liv­ing, says James McIn­tyre, the founder/di­rec­tor of field re­search for New Guinea High­land Wild Dog Foun­da­tion, based in Florida in the US.

A canid is a lin­eage of car­nivo­rans, which in­cludes do­mes­tic dogs, wolves, foxes, jack­als, din­goes, and many other ex­tant and ex­tinct dog-like mam­mals.

Mac says it is the apex preda­tor of New Guinea and what many think is one of the most im­por­tant canids in ex­is­tence.

“The HWD may be the miss­ing link species be­tween the first early canids and the mod­ern do­mes­tic dog.

“Dis­cov­er­ing the dogs was pure ela­tion,” McIn­tyre tells Par­adise.

“It was the cul­mi­na­tion of over 20 years try­ing, count­less hours of prepa­ra­tion, and per­sis­tence to a point of never tak­ing no for an ac­cept­able an­swer.”

The re­searchers lo­cated tracks, two dens, a trail sys­tem used for travel, and other signs of the dogs.

Based on that ev­i­dence, along with re­ports from lo­cals, trail cam­eras cap­tured over 100 pho­to­graphs of at least 15 dogs, in­clud­ing fe­males with pups from three to five months old, liv­ing in iso­lated lo­ca­tions be­tween 3700 and 4600 me­tres above sea level.

Many, if not most, in­dige­nous New Guinea peo­ple and cul­tures have sto­ries and tra­di­tions in­volv­ing the HWD.

In some cul­tures, HWDs are highly prized hunt­ing tro­phies, with their jaws and skulls dis­played proudly.

“To­day, the HWD is an in­valu­able na­tional treasure and nat­u­ral re­source in its his­toric ecosys­tem and range, and we must strive to pro­tect and con­serve not only its his­tory, but its fu­ture,” says McIn­tyre.

The next phase of this re­search will oc­cur later this year, he says.

“This time we will at­tempt to live-cap­ture in­di­vid­u­als, im­mo­bilise them, con­duct com­plete vet­eri­nary ex­am­i­na­tions, col­lect sam­ples nec­es­sary for thor­ough DNA anal­y­sis, ra­dio col­lar se­lected in­di­vid­u­als, and re­lease.

“DNA will be se­quenced back in the States while we track the se­lected dogs’ trav­els learn­ing about ter­ri­to­ries, den sites, and daily pat­terns – all from our com­put­ers at home.”

On the prowl … a New Guinea High­land wild dog.

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