Weeks after a stray puppy was discovered in a back yard in rural Australia, DNA tests revealed that the furry creature is not a dog at all but an Australian alpine dingo.
The news was a welcome surprise for conservationists: Australian alpine dingoes are an endangered species vulnerable to extinction because of inbreeding, hunting and government eradication programs, according to the Australia and Pacific Science Foundation.
The dingo pup, since named Wandi, was discovered in the back yard of a resident in Wandiligong, a rural town in the Australian state of Victoria in August, the Australian Dingo Foundation announced Thursday.
Wandi was later moved to the dingo foundation’s sanctuary while results of a DNA test were pending.
Lyn Watson, who directs the Australian Dingo Foundation, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that of the three types of Australian dingoes, which include inland and tropical, alpine dingoes like Wandi are the only ones currently in danger of extinction.
“For us he is going to be a very valuable little thing depending on his eventual development and the way he continues to get along with everybody else in the sanctuary,” Watson said.
The rarity of receiving a purebred as a pup means Wandi could eventually become part of the sanctuary’s breeding program, which includes about 40 other adult dingoes, according to CNN.
Experts say most dingoes in the island country are dog-dingo hybrids, Australian Geographic noted in a 2011 article about the potential extinction of purebred dingoes.
“Nowhere on the east coast of Australia can you find a dingo population that isn’t at least fifty percent, and in some cases eighty percent, domestic dog,” Ricky Spencer, an associate professor of zoology at the University of Western Sydney, told the magazine at the time.
The unnamed resident who discovered Wandi heard the pup “hiding and crying in the garden,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The resident initially thought Wandi was a stray dog or a fox and soon took him to Bec Day, a local veterinarian.
Wandi’s original journey might have ended with him being dinner for an eagle or other bird of prey. Instead, the young pup was likely dropped from its captors talons, Day told ABC, noting what appeared to be claw marks on Wandi’s back.
“There were no other pups nearby,” Day said. “The resident hadn’t heard any [other dingoes] calling. So he was just a lonely little soul sitting in a back yard.”