The Highland Wild Dog (HWD) is the rarest and most ancient canid currently living. It is our best example of a proto-canid and is truly a living fossil. It is the apex predator of New Guinea and the most important canid in existence.
The HWD is the missing link species between the first early canids and the modern domestic dog.
In September 2016, Mac McIntyre was on an ecotour in Papua Province when he encountered the University of Papua (UNIPA) rapid survey team searching for Highland Wild Dogs (HWDs).
Invited to join them to view a den site and search for dogs in the remote areas adjacent to Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid), Mac removed his shoes to cross a waterway and ascend the slopes leading to the target site.
After viewing the den site and exploring at elevation but failing to find dogs, Mac and the UNIPA team began descending the muddy mountain trail.
Mac’s mood was as grey and damp as the weather.
His trip was nearly over and while he had been able to investigate and collect samples from some Village Dogs in the traditional Village of Banti, he had yet to see any Highland Wild Dogs, despite having heard stories of them being present in the region.
Still barefoot, Mac glanced down to navigate the rain soaked ground and noticed something odd.
There in the mud, next to his bare footprint from the ascending trip, were the unmistakable fresh pawprints of a canine.
Despite anecdotal reports and even two intriguing but unconfirmed photographs in recent years, many feared the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog had become extinct through loss of habitat and contamination by Village Dogs.
The 2016 Expedition was able to locate, observe, gather documentation and biological samples, and confirm through DNA testing that at least some specimens still exist and thrive in the highlands of New Guinea.