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Rare Breed Of Dog Spotted In The Wild For The 1st Time In 50 Years

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now a story about a rare breed of dog that's been spotted for the first time in the wild after 50 years. The New Guinea singing dog is one of the rarest in the world. Though if you saw one, you probably wouldn't know it.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Elaine Ostrander with the National Institutes of Health says it looks a little bit like a dingo, tan and long legged.

ELAINE OSTRANDER: But then it's when you hear it that you would stop dead in your tracks.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEW GUINEA SINGING DOGS)

OSTRANDER: These dogs make this very haunting vocalization that's really unlike anything that we hear anywhere else.

INSKEEP: And when you get two or more of them together, it's melodic.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEW GUINEA SINGING DOGS)

MARTIN: Ostrander says there are only about 300 in captivity around the world, and wild ones that used to roam the highlands of New Guinea were thought to be extinct until recently.

OSTRANDER: And that really changed, gosh, around 2016 or so when people reported seeing and importantly hearing something that they thought was reminiscent of the New Guinea singing dog.

INSKEEP: Those sightings came from the Indonesian side of the island. You see, New Guinea is split between two countries, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

MARTIN: Heidi Parker is also at the National Institutes of Health. She co-authored an article with Ostrander that shows how blood samples from wild dogs in Indonesia helped prove that New Guinea singing dogs do exist in the wild.

HEIDI PARKER: So we took these dogs, and we compared them to all of the breed dogs that we have. We compared them to samples from dingoes from Australia, and we compared them to the captive New Guinea singing dogs.

INSKEEP: Parker says DNA samples show that the wild dogs in Indonesia were related to the New Guinea singing dogs.

MARTIN: She and Ostrander hope this new evidence will be used to help restore the species and maybe even unlock the mystery behind that distinctive howl. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.