New Guinea Singing Dog Canis hallstromi

New Guinea Singing Dog Canis hallstromi - Papua

New Guinea Singing Dog Canis hallstromi

Not classified (but likely critically endangered)

Extant (resident)

West Papua, Papua New Guinea.

Thought for decades to be extinct in the wild, the New Guinea singing dog populations hang on to survival in the remote mountains and forests of New Guinea. They were last spotted in 2017 near the Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua.

New Guinea Singing Dog Canis hallstromi - Papua

Elusive and likely critically endangered, New Guinea Singing Dogs are rapidly disappearing and have no formal protection. Fight against #palmoil #deforestation in #WestPapua and #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

Editor’s note: Regardless of the human debates over the classification of this animal – they exist in our world and are therefore very important to protect.

Appearance & Behaviour

Their muzzles are short and narrow giving them a fox-like vulpine appearance. They have a narrow body and a short bushy tail. They possess softly furred triangulate ears that stand erect or curved forwards in a conch shell shape. Their fur ranges from tawny russet brown on their backs and flanks; with their tummy, abdomen and paws a whitish or buff colour.

Past sightings have been single dogs or pairs. From this, it is inferred that New Guinea singing dogs don’t form wild packs. Scientists have described the dogs as being wary of humans, highly intelligent, independent, mobile foragers who forage alone or in pairs.

New Guinea singing dogs are named for their melodious and haunting howl. The howling sounds much different from dingoes, grey wolves and coyotes. Howls can last between 3 to 5 seconds and show abrupt changes in frequency.

Threats

Although these dogs have not been formally classified and their threats studied, it can be inferred that they face the same threats as other species in West Papua and Papua New Guinea who struggle with the anthropogenic threats: timber and palm oil deforestation, poaching and hunting, pollution run-off from mines and palm oil plantations, habitat enroachment and competition for food sources with humans.

New Guinea Singing Dog Canis hallstromi - Papua Threats

Chorus howling

New Guinea singing dogs sometimes howl together, a phenomenon known as ‘chorus howling’.

Much like choral singing, one dog starts howling and others join in afterwards with the song being melodically synchronised, with the howling ceasing together afterwards. This phenomenon is common during dawn and dusk.

Hear their singing in the video

Habitat

New Guinea singing dogs live in mountains and swampy mountain regions of Papua New Guinea at an altitude of 2,500 to 4,700 meters. They live amongst mixed forest, beech and mossy forest and alpine grasslands. It is assumed that they once were living across the entire island of New Guinea but their habitat has been reduced dramatically by multiple human pressures.

Diet

Indigenous peoples in Papua New Guinea and West Papua report that New Guinea singing dogs feed on mid-sized marsupials (wallabies, cuscus, tree kangaroos), birds, rodents, fruits, poultry, dwarf cassowaries and other ground-dwelling birds. Although they are opportunistic hunters and scavengers for food with non-specific dietary requirements. They are agile climbers and have been reported to steal the eggs and food of Papuan eagles. Papuan eagles are reported by Indigenous peoples to kill New Guinea singing dogs if they are discovered close to their nests.

Mating and breeding

The New Guinea singing dog possesses an annual seasonality, and if not impregnated will have a second estrus within a few weeks after the end of the first. Sometimes they will have a third. 

Males in captivity participate in raising the pups, including the regurgitation of food. Female New Guinea singing dogs are protective of their young and will aggressively attack male dogs if they can sense danger for their pups.

Trilling

During times of mating and high arousal these dogs have been known to trill. A sound with a bird-like character is emitted during high arousal lasting around 800 milliseconds.

These sounds are not made by other canid species. However a Dhole kept in Moscow Zoo was reported to make a similar sound. When kept in captivity along with domestic dogs, they are known to mimic barking and other behaviours.

Origins

Much has been debated about the taxonomy of the New Guinea singing dog (also known as the New Guinea highland dog). Some scientists consider this wild dog to be a species in their own right, others argue that this wild dog species is an ancient relative of the Australian Dingo or a species variation of the domestic dog Canis familiaris.

“The fossil record indicates the species established themselves on the island at least 6,000 years ago, believed to have arrived with human migrants. However, new evidence suggests they may have migrated independently of humans. While the taxonomy and phylogenetic relationships with related breeds and Australian dingoes is currently controversial and under review for both New Guinea singing dogs and highland wild dogs, the scientific and historical importance of the highland wild dog remains critical to understanding canid evolution, canid and human co-evolution and migrations, and human ecology and settlement derived from the study of canids and canid evolution.”

New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation (NGHWDF)

New Guinea singing dogs (NGSD) are distinctive among the Canidae because of their unique and characteristic vocalisation, isolated habitat, and status as a rare representative of wild dogs. Their scarcity, combined with the knowledge that none have been captured or exported since the late 1970s, supports the hypothesis that NGSD are extinct in the wild. We have analysed the nuclear genome of the first dogs captured from the highlands of Papua in approximately 50 y. We provide DNA-based evidence for an ancestral relationship between highland wild dogs (HWD) and captive NGSD suggesting that the founding population of the NGSD is not, in fact, extinct and that HWD should be resourced for conservation efforts to rebuild this unique canid population.

PNAS

In 2017 the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation announced on their website that they had found around 15 individual dogs in the remote wasteland of the Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua.

DNA analysis of excrement has shown that these dogs have a genetic relationship with other dogs found in Oceania, including the dingo.

A 2020 study demonstrated that this group of wild dogs have a much greater amount of genetic diversity than the captive and bred New Guinea Singing Dogs (which are inbred). This indicates that the wild population is healthy, however the size and distribution of the wild population is not known.

New Guinea singing dogs have no formal protections in place and are not considered important enough to be classified in the IUCN Red List.

The #Boycott4Wildlife disagrees with this silent elimination of these important ancient creatures from the public’s consciousness. If you wish to raise your voice for New Guinea singing dogs, join the #Boycott4Wildlife.

You can support this beautiful animal

There are no known formal conservation activities in place for this animal. Make sure that you #Boycottpalmoil and #Boycott4Wildlife in the supermarket and raise awareness of these beautiful ancient dogs in order to support their survival! Find out more here

New Guinea Singing Dog Canis hallstromi - Papua Threats

Further Information

The IUCN has declared that this animal is not worth classifying – this means that New Guinea singing dogs and what happens to them becomes invisiblised and they are even more threatened than other species in West Papua and Papua New Guinea.

New Guinea Highland Wild Dogs Foundation

‘The New Guinea singing dog, once thought extinct, is alive in the wild’, Mongabay (2020)

New Guinea Singing Dogs, Wikipedia.

Surbakti, S. et. al (2020), ‘New Guinea highland wild dogs are the original New Guinea singing dogs’, PNAS. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2007242117.

New Guinea Singing Dog on Vimeo


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Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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