This rare wild dog species hasn't been photographed in more than 50 years

April 5, 2017, 8:23 a.m.

Considered to be perhaps the rarest wild dog in the world, the New Guinea highland wild dog has been spotted on camera for the first time in over half a century.

The New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation announced that after an expedition to search out individuals in the wild, they've gathered hundreds of images of the dogs, including at least 15 individuals — males, females and pups. Before this, the evidence of the dogs living in their home range of New Guinea’s remote central mountain spine at altitudes of 12,000-15,000 feet had been scant at best. No one was sure if this ancient species still existed in the wild, but this survey shows that there are at least a handful of individuals still out there.

According to the foundation:

Conservation/management plans are in development for both wild HWD [New Guinea highland wild dog] and captive NGSD [New Guinea Singing Dog] specimens, and status/taxonomy/phylogeny determinations are underway. A scientific publication is forthcoming. The HWD is likely the best living canid example available to scientists outside the fossil record, predating human agriculture and representing a critical “missing link” species having evolved little – and more importantly, free from selective breeding influences imposed by humans – since the time before the dawn of agriculture. It is also the largest and only apex predator on the whole of New Guinea.

The foundation wants to continue studying the dogs not only to learn more about them as part of the canid family tree, but also to learn more about their role in the ecosystem and about how human history has played out alongside these wild dogs, which are considered a key link between early canids and domestic dogs of today.

You can learn more about ancient dog breeds as well as wild dogs in our article about pariah dogs.