The photo above clearly beats my thylacine photo from yesterday.
It is supposed to be the first photograph of a New Guinea singing dog in the wild.
There are some problems with this assertion.
One of them is the animal in the photo appears to have the brown-skinned trait. All the ones in captivity, which are supposedly pure and derived from “wild” ones, have black skin.
That means that this animal likely has some Western dog blood.
The other thing is the New Guinea singing dog isn’t really what people thin it is.
For decades, there were many otherwise rational people who swore that this was a unique species. If you dig through texts from even just twenty years ago, you’ll find people promoting Canis hallstromi. It was later found, when the DNA was examined, that the New Guinea singing dog was a subset of dingo.
Dingoes are not a unique species. They are not ancestors of domestic dogs, and they are not the missing link between wolves and domestic dogs. They are feral dogs with a Southeast Asian derivation.
That’s all a New Guinea singing dog is.
What’s more the indigenous people of New Guinea have kept dogs like this for thousands of years. They’ve been modified through selection and the introduction of Western blood, but they readily admit that their dogs are derived from that “wild” source. The New Guinea singing dog as a landrace isn’t rare or going extinct. It’s just the purely feral form that is.
Indeed, if people were actually wanting to ‘save” the New Guinea singing dog, they’d use the blood from these hunting dogs.
But no, that would make too much sense, and it would also take away from their mystique as being the “wild dog of New Guinea.”
Of course, they’re going to say that the village dogs have Western blood in them, but if this photo is being used to claim that this is a wild New Guinea singing dog, then that argument simply holds no water.
Like its relatives in Australia, the New Guinea dingo (which is its more appropriate name) has incorporated the blood of other dogs into its gene pool, which isn’t really all that crazy. If you turned a bunch of domestic dogs from “rare, genetically distinct” breeds loose and let them freely breed, they’d probably incorporate a lot of German shepherd, Labrador, beagle, and pit bull blood into their gene pools.
Dogs have never voluntarily sequestered their genes. They didn’t do it for thousands upon thousands of years. It’s really only been in the West for the past few centuries that people have gotten of on contriving morphologically distinct populations into things we call breeds.
It’s that same sort of thinking that suggests we can save the New Guinea singing dog and the dingo as pure entities.
They simply cannot.
I find some of the obsession that New Guinea singing dog enthusiasts give to this animal to be somewhat disconcerting.
It’s a feral animal.
It’s interesting as a landrace and a subset of dingo.
But it’s still a dog.
It’s not a unique species of any sort.
If you want to impress me, get me some photos of Sir David’s long-beaked echidna of Indonesia Papua Province on the island of New Guinea. It’s a very endangered species of monotreme that was only described to science. It was only described to science in 1961, and it was named for Sir David Attenborough. No one has seen one in the wild for decades.
Sir David’s long-beaked echidna actually is a very rare species. It actually is endemic to just a tiny part of New Guinea.
I would love to see photos of a wild one.
It’s not a feral dog.
It’s not a dingo.
It’s actually something that could be found only in a remote part of New Guinea.
But then it’s not a dog or a “wolf,” so it’s much harder to get people to get worked up about it.
How amazingly fickle are humans.
We lose our minds over a photo of a feral dog, but we seem to forget that the island of New Guinea has lots of really unique wildlife, much of it quite critically endangered.
But Western man’s cultural biases in favor of dogs and wolves make us worry about the local breed of bush mongrel instead.