New Guinea singing dogs not extinct in the wild, as previously thought

For years, zoologists have assumed that the New Guinea singing dog is extinct in the wild. That assumption has been proven wrong after an analysis of the DNA of three wild dogs living 14,000 feet high on the island matched the DNA of captive New Guinea singing dogs.

If you aren’t familiar with these curious creatures, New Guinea singing dogs are known for their unique vocalizations, which “sound like a cross between a wolf’s howl and whale song.” It has been thought that these singing dogs went extinct in the wild back in the 1970s, with just a couple hundred of the animals remaining in zoos or as exotic pets. The problem with this captivated population, however, is that they all descend from eight original dogs, so the descendants are highly inbred and lack genetic diversity, leaving the remnant dogs at risk of becoming infertile.

Doubts about their extinction from the wild started to arise in 2012 when an ecotourist guide snapped a picture of what seemed to be a New Guinea singing dog in a remote, mountainous part of New Guinea (on the Indonesian side), prompting a wildlife biologist known as McIntyre to search for a wild population of the dogs in that region.

McIntyre had been searching for these dogs since 1996 and managed to capture two male dogs with a trap in 2018 in order to collect a blood sample, releasing the dogs immediately afterward. Those samples were then taken to the US where they were compared to the DNA of captive New Guinea singing dogs. Not only did this confirm that they were the same species, and the samples also showed genetic diversity amongst the wild New Guinea singing dogs.

Now that the genetic results show that New Guinea singing dogs still exist in the wild, researchers hope this will push international governments and the Indonesian government to protect these unique creatures in the wild.

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