There have been no verified sightings of the New Guinea Singing Dog in Papua New Guinea since the 1970s, so they were considered either rare or possibly extinct in the wild until an explorer to the remote mountainous regions photographed one in August 2012. In fact, a team spent nearly a month searching unsuccessfully for one to breed in the mid 1990's.
Tom Hewitt, Director of Adventure Alternative Borneo, had no idea what he was looking at when his guide stopped in an unusual fashion and pointed, exclaiming, "dog!" Hewitt said, "The guide had to repeat it three times and point before we understood. [The dog] was not scared, but seemed [as] genuinely curious [of us] as we were of it, and it certainly felt like a rare meeting for both sides. The guides and cook were also surprised. Hewitt snapped the following photo of the dog, which also captures the remoteness of the area:
After Hewitt returned home, he contacted Tom Wendt, founder of New Guinea Singing Dog International. Wendt was initially skeptical: "I have had several folks contact me in the past claiming to have seen or photographed a Papua New Guinea highland wild dog, but in every prior instance there was either no photograph to support the claim, or the photos taken were of a hybridised New Guinea singing dog at lower elevations.."
Perfect Conditions for a Verifiable Find
The only place a pure New Guinea singing dog could possibly be found would be in the remote highlands where the natives rarely visit, and due to the lack of humans present, a domestic dog would not thrive. This is exactly where Tom and his team were when the dog was sighted and photographed. said Wendt. The New Guinea Singing Dogs are thought to have once inhabited most of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, based on circumstantial and archaeological evidence dating back thousands of years. Little is known about the origin of the Singer, but its thought that, like their closest relative, the Australian dingo, they were transported by people traveling between islands more than 4,000 years ago. New Guinea Singing Dogs are named for their distinctive melodious howls. They have been captive bred as companion dogs but are at risk of genetic dilution due to hybridization with other dog breeds.
Hear a Vocal Singer at the San Diego Zoo:
For more information, visit Scientific American.