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Investigation into the status and conservation needs of the free-living New Guinea Singing Dog (Canis lupus dingo) 1996


James K. McIntyre

Southwest Pacific Research Foundation

631 Tarpon Ave.  #6391

Fernandina Beach, Fl.  32034 USA

Phone/Fax 904-261-5630

E-mail—jmcint6317@aol.com







Along with my concern for the future and New Guinea Highland Wild Dog and my association with I. Lehr Brisbin, Jr. (Savannah River Ecology Lab, Aiken, S.C.), I offered my services to determine the status and conservation needs of the N.G.S.D., with hopes of capturing animals for export to replenish the highly inbred captive population.  I hoped to determine, through reliable informants and personal observations, the possibility of remaining pure free-ranging populations of this wild canid.  In the areas that I am able to visit, I will make assessments of the status of domesticated village dogs which might pose potential sources of genetic hybridization/contamination to any of the remnant populations of NGSD still in existence.  If I was fortunate enough to get into an area where free-living dogs are likely to occur, I will conduct an abbreviated capture campaign as well as documentation and collection of any fecal, skeletal, and hair samples.  Descriptions and measurements of habitat, dog trails, tracks, dens and resting areas will further help to uncover the natural history of this shy and elusive canid.  I hope to identify an area which has a population of wild dogs and investigate to feasibility of a future full scales expedition.  Initially considered a new species of wild canid when discovered in the mid-1950’s.  The New Guinea Singing Dog, also known as Hailstrom’s Dog, is more properly considered as a member of the complex of canids including the gray wolf, domestic dog and Australian Dingo.  The precise taxonomic status and phylogenetic relationships of this group are matters of current controversy that may require considerable reconstruction of traditional assumptions.

Although wild population of these dogs have been noted in the higher altitudes of the Central Highlands, they have invariably been overlooked as subjects of research.  This neglect has partially been the result of a failure to appreciate the unusual features of this canid and to understand its position as a truly primitive form of domestic dog.  The possibility that these dogs may exert significant predation pressure upon smaller native fauna further increases the need for field studies in the Central Highlands where they are the only large mammalian predator other than man.



Virtually all biological information for the New Guinea Singing Dog has resulted from studies of captive animals.  Foremost among its unique features is its vocal behavior including a form of howling marked by an extraordinary degree of frequency modulation and a number of signals, e.g. a high pitch rapid trill, which have not been reported for other canids.  The structural complexity and functional significance of these vocal patterns are not yet well understood.  Other unique features include an annual reproductive cycle, with short-term recycling of estrus in females which fail to become pregnant, and a social behavior which suggests a monogamous non-pack social organization.

Field studies of these animals are being hindered by what may be a recent decline in their numbers and distribution.  Of particular concern has been the increasingly limited number of sites which isolate them from hybridization with domestic dog.  This is probably the most significant conservation concern facing wild populations today.  There is hope that non-hybridized Singing Dog populations may still exist at higher altitudes on Mounts Giluwe and Wilhelm in
Papua New Guinea, and in highlands to the south of the Lakes-Plains region of the Idenburg and Rouffaer Rivers in Irian Jaya.  A particularly important, due to its isolation, has recently found in the Mount Mekil region in far west Papua New Guinea.


Some notes on the
Mekil Research Center

            The Mekil Research Center was created in 1993 as a result of the energy and enthusiasm of Keyt Fischer and the generosity of OK Tedi Mining Limited.  Fisher, a biologist, spent one year living in a tent on
Mt. Stolle while forging strong relationships with local inhabitants and regional mining concerns.  Ok Tedi Mining Limited, who has been recovering gold from the area for the past 18 years, is also concerned about the environment in which their mining has an impact.  Fischer convinced OK Tedi of the need for and the benefits of a permanent research station at Mekil (the local name of the mountain.)  The Sokamin people, owners of Mekil, agreed to allow OK Tedi to construct a quality research station to be available to scientists worldwide.

            Mekil Research Station (location: 4 deg 45 min S; 140 deg 40 min E; altitude 1833 meters) is located in the
Mt. Stolle area of the Sanduan Province of western Papua New Guinea (PNG.)  The facility itself sits on the steep south face of Mt. Stolle overlooking the Miawmin Range and the headwaters of the May River.  The stilted structure, of approximately 1300 sq.ft., has indoor water and bathroom facilities fed by gravity flow creek water.  Several solar panels supply ample electricity with a 10 horsepower diesel generator available for emergencies.

Gas stoves for cooking are also available.  Adjoining the station is a helipad that can accommodate the largest of helicopters.

            In accordance with station and Sokamin regulations, for each scientist that uses the station, two Sokamin villagers will be hired as assistants for 60 kina per fortnight.  Food and housing is also supplied to assistants for being located in perhaps the most remote area of all PNG, with a rich array of flora and fauna.  The Mekil Research Station provides a unique opportunity for scientists to study in PNG’s rugged western province.

Mekil Research Station, PNG

Daily Temperatures and Rainfall

 



 

DAILY TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL

1996

DATE

TEMPERATURE(C°)

8:00 AM

HIGH

RAINFALL

LAST 24 HOURS(mm)

6/22

15

16

46

6/23

14

17

2

6/24

15

17

23.6

6/25

14

17

23.2

6/26

14

17

0


6/27

14

18

0

6/28

14

17

10.4

6/29

14

17

53.6

6/30

14

16

86

7/1

14

17

0

7/2

14

17

23.4

7/3

14

17

21.9

7/4

15

18

2.8

7/5

15

16

0.6

7/6

15

17

39

7/7

15

17

3.5

7/8

15

18

0.3

7/9

12

17

0

7/10

14

17

2.4

7/11

14

17

0





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ø      On the average, rainfall is expected approximately 340 days per year

Ø      The days generally start out clear and become cloudy by mid morning

Ø      Rainfall recorded between October 93 and October 94 was 300mm (Bino)


Description of Study Area

Mekil Research Station 1996

            The area chosen for this study was a 18 Sq. km. site that can be characterized as lower to mid mountain mossy cloud forest in the
Sandaun Province of western PNG.  The study range was situated on the steep southeastern and southwestern slopes of Mt. Stolle.  The location was 2deg 45 min S and 140 deg 40 min E with the altitude varying from 1200 meters to 2200 meters.  The terrain was steep a rugged with impenetrable undergrowth consisting largely of fallen logs, bamboo thickets, and an uneven floor of moss.  This research site was chosen because of its proximity to the Mekil Research Station and prior evidence of wild dog activities.  Numerous animal trails zigzag the moist forest floor.

Abbreviated diary of fact finding exploratory field trip regarding the status of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog. 6/23/96-7/16/96

6/23-Arrived late PM in
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG.)  Went directly to the University of PNG and checked into a dormitory.

6/24-Meeting with Dr. James Menzies, Biology Department.  University of PNG, editor of Science in New Guinea.  Discussed project.  He offered his support and agreed to “curate” any specimens I might acquire.  Donated syringes and needles.  Discussed Robert Bino’s work singing dogs.  Also at this office I met with Dr. Brian McNabb of the University of Florida in PNG for four weeks studying Cus Cus energetics.  Went to the PNG National Museum and spoke with Frank Bonaccorso.  Curator of Mammals by phone in Madang.  Discussed project and goals.  He pledged his support.  Met with Samuel Antiko (Secretary) and Lester Seri (Mammalogist) with the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation.  Discussed project intentions.  Antiko said he supports our project.  Met with Karol Kisokau of the Research and Conservation Foundation of PNG.  Discussed sponsorship for subsequent long term projects.  Procured topographic maps at the National Mapping Bureau.  Returned to airport to arrange helicopter flight (from Tabubil to Mekil Research Station) with Pacific Helicopters.

6/25-MBA Airlines flight from Port Mores to Tabubil.  Weather had clouded over, so unable to take helicopter to MRS. Shopped for supplies.  Spent night at Cloudlands Hotel.  Met with Dr. Stephen Swales OK Tedi Environment Department.

6/26-Early amHelicopter flight from Tabubil to Mekil Research Station, 
Mt. Stolle.  Station orientation.  Briefed assistants of NGSD project goals.  Walked for 3 hours in afternoon looking for wild dog signs.  Found feces and good dog tracks.

6/27-Began playing cassettes of captive NGSD daily, 7:00 am and 6:00 PM (weather permitting) to attract free-living dogs, arouse curiosity, elicit dog responses, laid out snares and “cushioned” leg hold traps to “season” them.  Walk for four hours with assistants Kemuel and Sibou.  Found feces and a former heavily traveled dog path.  Located and area that was previously described as a singing dog “resting place” (Bino).  Many dog trails and paths.  Area is known as the “west ridge at the head of the Wara Singamet.”

6/28-Set six jump traps and six live catch snares in above are, utilizing baits, lures, and heat urine for scent attraction.  Site is approximately 40 minute walk from MRS.  Two village girls saw a wild dog while talking to the station.

6/29-Checked traps early am-nothing.  Walked to Manakomofip village to examine and describe village dogs.  Examine six dogs (photos, videos, and skin samples).  Examined wild dog skull (took measurements,) I recognized a dog track on the trail that was not there on our trip down to the village.

6/30-Checked traps-nothing.  “Reactivated” scent packet.  Helped construct rock and clay oven for baking bread.

7/1-Set traps along trail where village girls observed wild dog on 6/28.  Used the “awful” of a dead rat to bait scent the area.  Four jump traps and two snares.  “Fresh” dog tracks

7/2-Check traps a.m.-nothing.  While exploring new area NW of station (“Dei ma sne”
are”) we observed fresh dog tracks. Many narrow well worn trails around well-drained
sheer cliffs and boulders. Set two jump traps and four snares in this area. One especially
clear track measured 70 mm in length and 60 mm in width. The area was “scented” with
baits, lures, and heat urine.

7/3-Checked traps a.m.-nothing. Assisted resident biologist radio tracking Cus Cus.

7/4- No Entry  

7/5- No Entry

7/6-checked traps-nothing. Recovered plaster mold made from good track7/2.
Walking in the forest looking for more wild dog signs (approx. 4 hours)

7/7-Checked traps –nothing. Found a “fresh” dog track in a boot print that I had made
the day before.

7/8-Checked traps-nothing. “Freshened” up baits at “Dei ma sne” area trap site. One
jump trap at “singament Creek” was sprung shut and another was flipped over.  There was a disturbance in the area around these traps.  My assistants could not tell what kind of animal caused this disturbance.

7/9-Traps checked-nothing.  Helped “process” and release two ringtails captured during the night.  Began work on 55 gallon drum warm shower apparatus.

7/10-Traps checked-nothing.  All traps and snares collected and returned to the station.  Great tailed triok (Dactylopsila megalura) captured last night, processed and released.  Pre-packed packs for walkout tomorrow.

7/11-Early A.M. processed and released Montane Cus Cus with young in pouch.  Walked to
Manakomofip Village, collected village dog skin samples.  Observed and recoded village dog’s reaction to cassettes of captive NGSDs.  Photos and videos of dogs, village, and residents.  Tissue sample collected on dog “fathered” by a wild dog.  Walked an additional 6 ½ hours in the roughest terrain I’ve ever encountered.  Spent the night in Sokamin Village in a guest hut provide, free of charge for visiting scientists.

7/12-Arose early and walked the remaining three hours to Mianmin village.  Observed documented, and filmed village dogs of Mianmin.  Discussed possibility of obtaining “wild dogs’ from high elevations of this area [with Mina villagers].  Caught a late afternoon flight to Tabubil (via five other small bush airstrips) Spent the night at the Cloudlands Hotel.

7/13-Tabubil-shopped for additional supplies to send back to Mekil Research Station (via MAF airlines.)  Caught late morning flight to
Port Moresby (via Tari and Mendi.)  Went to the University of PNG and checked into dormitory room.

7/14- Sunday. 
Port MoresbySpent the day acquainting myself with the capital city and its bus system.  Visited all five areas of the National Capital District (NCD.)  Visited the Koki.  Gardens, and Waigani markets.

7/15-Met with Dr. James Menzies and discussed my findings and the possibility of having them published in “Science in
New Guinea.”

-Met with Frank Bonaccorso.  Curator of Mammals, at the
National Museum.  Discussed successes of this project.

-Met with Arlyne Johnson, Scientific Programs Director of the Research and Conservation Foundation of PNG.  Discussed sponsorship of a long term NGSD project.  Also discussed possibility of helping Robert Bino enroll in a masters program in the
US.  Also met once again with Karol Kisokau of RCF.

-Visited the Mokilaka Wildlife Sanctuary in Erima.  All six wild dogs “repatriated” from Tornga Zoo have died.

-Visited the
National Botanical Garden.

7/16-Early morning flight from
Port Moresby to Australia, to Los Angeles, to Miami, to Jacksonville, Florida.

 

Local folklore and stories of interest contributing to the “Mystique” of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog

-Rose Singadan, zoologist, University of PNG, originally form the Simbu province.  SE of MT Wilhelm.  Rose has seen feces above the 3000 meter mark.  When village people go up into the mountains to collect pandanus nuts the village dogs interact with the wild dogs.  The village dogs mostly chase the singing dogs, which stay silent during the chase.  Later from a safe distance, they will sing.  She says the singing do is very shy and secretive and doesn’t wander close to villages.  Her brother may have “mixed” puppies back in her village.  The local name for the village dog is Aglla.  The local name for the wild dog is Kogllma (koge-ma).  Dog sightings by local on
Mt. Wilhelm National Park.

-John, law student.
University of PNG.  Friend of Robert Bino.  He told the story of a puppy that was captured by his brother high in the star mountain range in 1989.  He said there was a group of dogs up there that used to hunt at night.  The captured the puppy and as they were taking it away, all of a sudden the dogs sounded off together in a “sad chorus” and then suddenly stopped.  The puppy was taken back tot the Simbu province and raised.  “It had a unique personality” and he became very attached to it.  The dog never barked-just howled.  In 1992 the dog was run over and his brother was so distraught he tried to attack and kill the owner of the car.

-Another student of
University of PNG said he has heard of a “dingo-type” dog up non MT. Giluwe.

-The people of the Western Highlands refer to
Mt. Giluwe as “Walmilko” which means “the dog.”

-The mountain range directly east of the Mekil Research Station is called “Tilopobumabil” which means “the dog barks at night.”  This 2000 meter range was named by the Sokamin people.  In June of 1995, a dog was heard singing on “Tilopobumabil” by an American biologist.

-One of my assistants, 20 year old Kemuel from Malakomofip Village, has seen one wild dog in the bush.  He said it was yellow, black, and brown and had a white chest.  He said it was bigger than a village dog.  He hunted and killed this dog and a cassowary one day with a spear.  Quite a hunting feat.  He has the jaw bones.
-Ken from
Malakomafip Village, also helping at the station says “the dogs do not usually ‘call’ during the rainy season, which is now.” (6/24)

-Ken also says “October and November, when the fruits are ripe (Eleaocarpus sp)-local name Mokeem and wanamokeem-is when the wild dogs come to lower elevations to eat.  This is the best time to find the wild dog.   This is also the time for the babies.  This is the time when they are teaching the babies.  Wild dogs can be heard singing more during these months.” This would make the breeding season during April and May.

-Mukar (Kemuel’s father) of
Malakomofip Village.  *When a young man, at a hunting camp in the mountains, he heard a dog sing early in the morning.  He tried to shoot it with a bow and arrow, but it got away.  “On another hunting trip, he and his father saw a black wild dog.  *Ten years ago a brown wild dog was killed and eaten. *In 1988, he saw a black dog.  It smelled him and ran away.  He says it’s still in the forest.

-Another Malakomofip Villager. “This past year, while building a resting place, he saw a brown dog in the bush yipping at him.”  He said it was larger than the village dogs.  *He once, this year, caught a wild dog puppy by hand, but it got away.  “It had brown on the head and sides and lower body was white.”

-Village men take their dogs along to hunt Cus Cus.

-No matter what the classification, the Highland Wild Dog “mystique” has a strong foothold in the livers of the people living at the base of the mountains.  So revered are they the skulls of the wild dog killed in a hunt are hung proudly above their doorways along with the skulls of the wild pigs and cassowaries, trophies of the most elusive challenges.

Description of village dogs in villages in the closest proximity to the Mekil Research Station’s study area (MRS)

Village: Malakomofip: altitude is 1200 meters: two hour walk, rough terrain, uphill.

Village description: Village of approximately 20 people, five houses, six dogs on the
bank of headwaters of the
May River.

Dog #1: (male) sub-adult, predominately black with tan points (highlights). Small
amount of white on chest, brushy black tail thick coat.
Approx. 9 Kg.  *Said to be the offspring of

Dog#3 and male wild dog.  *Skin and hair samples collected from right ear.

Dog#2: (male) adult. Predominately black with tan points (highlights).  White on chest

extending to small stripe down belly, brushy tail, thick coat, approx. 11 Kg.
  “Skin and hair samples collected/right ear.

Dog#3: (female) adult. Predominately black with tan points (highlights).  White on
chest, tip on tail. Brushy tail.  Two years old. Approx. 9 Kg.  Dam of # 1.

Dog#4: (male) puppy-6 months, predominately white speckled, white muzzle, white
speckled shoulders extending to legs and under belly to hind legs and tail.  Black patch on top of back and hips.  Some tan points by whiskers, ears, and under arms. 4 Kg.  Smooth tail and coat.  “Bitch of this puppy is dog #7

Dog#
5: (male) puppy, smooth coat, predominately black with white speckled forelegs,
chest, and irregular collar.  Small white around muzzle.  4 Kg.  White tip on tail.


Dog#6: (male) adult, black with white on muzzle extending up to center of forehead
(blaze), white chest connecting to thin irregular shoulder collar.  Tan on forelegs and hind legs.  White tip on tail, bushy tail, white paws and belly thick coat, 11Kg.

Village: Bumbumafip; 2 ½ hours walk from MRS across
May River.  Altitude is 1300
meters.

Village descriptions; one family four people one house one dog.

Dog#7: (female) adult, smooth coat. Black with white around top of neck and chest, white legs and paws, white tip on tail, approx. 9 Kg.

Further descriptions of
Malakomofip Village dogs:

            At first glance the village dogs of Malakomofip, most certainly resemble the phenotype of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog.  The broad, wedge shaped head, along with the slightly slanting triangular eyes and the short wide triangular ears facing forward gave four of the six village dogs the “look” of this unique canid.  The dogs are maintained in a free-range situation but do have particular ownership.  The dogs became particularly aloof upon my presence in the village.  Three dogs (all three black and tans) took a threat posture towards me and began to vocalize in what only can be described as a soft “yipping” growl combination.  These dogs were very quick and graceful in their movements.  Their bodies were well muscled, but not bulky.

            Upon my first visit to this village.  I was granted permission to take a small tissue sample from the dogs’ ears.  As expected, after extracting the sample from the first dog, it “yipped” and then all of the remaining dogs fled into the forest.

Evidence of New Guinea Highland Wild Dog habitation in the Mekil Research Station Study Area

            In my 2 ½ weeks on Mt. Stolle.  I never saw a New Guinea Highland Wild Dog.  I attribute this, not to the absence of these animals at this study site, and not to my lack of desire and enthusiasm to find these dogs, but to the overwhelming qualities of these dogs as survivors.  Many Sokamin hunters, who revere the wild dog as one of the most prized trophies, have seen these elusive canids only a handful of times in their lives while hunting the higher altitude of New Guinea’s rugged mountains.

            I was, however, able to collect five separate fecal samples found in the proximity of main trails, heavily traveled by well-drained rock out-croppings used as rest areas.  None of the five samples seemed recently deposited.  Urine spots were identified alongside main pathways by the discoloration the urine created on the moss covered forest floor and trees, in the moss cloud forest, such as the Mekil Research Station Study Area, thick most moss carpets the forest floor and completely envelopes tree trunks up as high as the canopy.  This substrate does not create a medium in which animal tracks on trails are easily identified.  My research assistants, raised in these mountains, were very adept at recognizing the most insignificant disruption in the forest floor.  In time we were able to identify many well worn high travel areas.  Because the forest never completely dries, it is had to tell how recently an animal track has been laid down.  Many clear examples of canid tracks were identified at the 1800-2000 meter level. 

On two occasions, the author identified canid tracks that were not present at the site 8-24 hours earlier.  Some of the more obvious secondary trails are said to be used jointly by both the NGWD and the dwarf cassowary.  A plaster cast of particularly clear track was made on 7/6 at an elevation of 1800 meters (measurements 60 mm width X 70 long.)  On 7/5 while working around the station, the author, another biologist, and a local Sokamin man simultaneously heard what appeared to be a sudden yelp from a dog.  All agreed this is what the NGHWD sounded like.  The sound was that sound made be a dog when it is suddenly startled by a stimulus that creates some degree of pain.

            On 6/28 two young Bumbumafip village girls, bringing vegetables up to the station, saw a wild dog on the trail ahead of them at approximately 1650 meters.  They described the dog as follows: “Light brown in color with black around nose.  Tail standing straight up with much hair on end.  Ears go up.”

            In June of 1995, biologist Leo Salas heard the songs of the singing dog on the ridge of Tilopobumabil, the mountains to the east of the Mekil Research Station.

Measurements of two skulls said to be those of New Guinea Highland Wild Dogs

 

Skull#1: Killed by Tabasuium. (Sokamin hunter) 1995 in area of Mekil Research Station

 

Upper Carnassial Length (mm)

 

Condylonasal Length

 

Ratio of Upper Carnassial to Condylonasal Length

 

 

 

 

17 mm

 

160  mm

 

10.60%

Skull#2:  Killed by Mukor. (Malakomofip hunter) 1992 in Tilopobumabil ridge region east of Mekil Research Station.

Upper Carnasial Length (mm

Condylonasal Length

Ratio of Upper Carnassial to Condylonasal Length

16 mm

155 mm

10.30%



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Skull#1 collected for further study

 

                   
              
  Diet of free-living New Guinea Highland Wild Dog

            This information was compiled as a result of conservations with personal informants, gross fecal examinations, personal observations of village dogs, and cited references from Bino (1996).

            It is an agreed consensus among highland dwelling Papua New Guineans, that the highland wild dogs diet consists of meat as well as fruits.   This canid is known to eat a variety of local smaller mammals including kapul (opossums and cus cus).  Rats, and liklik rat (mice).  Singing dogs will not hesitate to scavenge the kills of other predators (Bino) or carrion left in neglected hunters’ traps.  Gross fecal examinations by this author yielded whiskers of small mammals.  Cus cus toenails and femur bones of smaller mammals were also found.  Bright red coloration in some of the fecal samples is said to be as a result of fruit in the diet (local informants).

            New Guinea Singing Dogs are said to eat fruit as a main portion of their diet, when it is available.  When the fruit ripens, during October and November, the Mokeem and Wanamokeen fruit (Elaeocaurs sp) is a favored diet of the wild dogs (local informants.) 

 

Local hunters, more often that not, will see and occasionally spear wild dogs are said to eat the fruit of the pandanus sp.  The author has seen Malkomofip village dogs readily eat papaya.
            Further extensive examinations of scats recovered on this study as well as those collected by Bino.  1994. Should yield further definitive proof of the wild dogs preferred diet.  NGSD have also been known to eat grasses (Bino.)

            Based on their feeding preferences and habitats, it appears that the NGSD are omnivorous opportunities feeders, depending on seasonal availability.  These characteristic have enabled this canid to survive and prosper in an isolated habitat with such rugged terrain.

New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Trapping Campaign (1996)

            The mid mountain mossy cloud forest beneath the 2800 meters summit of Mt.  Stolle is laced with a myriad of trails seemingly unobservable except by those who truly know the forest.   The more obvious of these trails are said to be used jointly by the dwarf cassowary and the
New Guinea highland wild dog.

            After through exploration of the southern slopes of
Mt. Stolle, we concentrated our trapping campaign to those areas that my assistants and I felt were areas of most recent wild dog activities.  For practical purposes and for the safety of a trapped animal, the traps were checked daily and set no further from the station than a one hour waling distance.  Two different styles of traps were chosen.  One dozen Victor #1 cushion-jawed leg held jump traps and one dozen 5/64” cable live catch snares were recommended for canids in the 10 to 15 Kg weight class.

            Wild free-living canids become very leery upon human encroachment in their territories.  Because of the short duration of this exploratory expedition.  I had to make certain adjustments to maximize my efforts.  I planned to inundate my trap sites with proven canid baits, lures, and scents in an attempt to override their reluctance to approach human odors with an overwhelming curiosity of these intense new smells.  Through the recommendation of North American canid trappers, I selected baits and lures derived from fox and coyote anal glands and urine.  Supplies of shellfish oil and coyote bitch in heat urine were also used in an attempt to attract the highland wild dog.

            The extreme difficulty in trapping an intelligent, elusive canid is well known.  As canids choose to frequent well established trails, I set snares in these heavily traveled pathways.

            In areas that obviously had recent dog “activity”, I suspended bait or lure saturated gauze packet at a height of approximately 1 ½ meters above the three jump traps that were set in a one meter circle.

            Heat urine was sprayed in the general area and along side the trails heading towards and leading away from the trap site.  Urine was also sprayed on my boots and paths to help eliminate human odors and to indirectly deposit “scent” along forest trails.

            It was not surprising to have been unsuccessful in this abbreviated trapping campaign.  Robert Bino found (in 1994) that the solitary wild dogs rarely frequent the same resting places on a daily or even weekly basis.  These highly mobile dogs sometimes stay away months before they returned to a sleeping site.

            At one point I had one jump trap sprung shut, but my assistants were unable to positively identify the animal that caused the disturbance.  A more extensive trapping campaign is highly recommended.


New Guinea Highland Wild Dog feces collected at Mekil Research Station (MRS) Study Area

Mt. Stolle,
Papua New Guinea, 1996

Sample#

Collected

Location/Altitude

Precise Location

Fecal Condition

Gross Makeup

1

6/12

Helipad at MRS 1833 meters

Top of 3x1 meter boulder

Very old moss

growth on feces

Hair vibrissae

2

6/25

North of MRS alongside main path to Mt. Stolle

On top of a log 2 meters above the ground

Not fresh

Toenails,claws,hair

3

6/25

NW of MRS west ridge at the head of Warusingqamet

Just off a heavily traveled trail by the base of the rocks

Very dry old

Unidentifiable hair, small bones

 

 

4

6/26

West of MRS

Alongside main path

Old

hair, bone(femur)

unidentifiable

5

6/27

NW of MRS (1 hour walk)

At the base of well drained rock outcrop

Old

No visible hair in feces







 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Guinea Highland Wild Dogs and their reactions to cassette recordings of captive NGSD vocalization

            I acquired and took cassette recordings of captive NGSD to
Papua New Guinea to attempt to elicit responses from free-living wild dogs and to document the response of village dogs to these captive vocalizations.

            Vocalizations of captive dogs owned by Jan Koler of the New Guinea Singing Dog Club of America,
Central Point, Oregon, Dr. Mark Feinstein of Hampshire College in Amherest, Mass., and Dr. R. Lehr Brishbin Jr. of the Savannah River Ecology Lab, Aiken, SC, were played each day at 7:00 am an 6:00 PM.  Several types of calls were represented including group chorus and isolation calls.  I had hoped to both elicit a response and or curiosity from any wild dogs that might be in the area and auditory receptivity.  A more powerful transmission would be suggested for subsequent investigation.  No response was every detected of the limited strength of my transmission equipment. I am not sure of the range these recordings were able to transmit.

            I also had the opportunity to play recordings of captive NGSD vocalizations in the presence of village dogs at Malakomofip, the closest village (2 ½ hours walk downhill) to the
Mekil Research Center.  Malakomofip village contains six village dogs (five males, one female, including two male puppies) four of the six dogs had a morphotype phenotype very similar to that of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog.

            Upon hearing chorus recordings, the village dogs immediately became very alert exhibiting a stiffening of the posture with their ears becoming erect.  Several dogs titled their heads from side to side.  One dog approached the recorder in gradually reducing concentric circling.  At one point one dog responded in a short bust (three seconds) of a howl-like vocalization then retreated to the bush.

            After approximately five minutes all dogs lost interest in the recordings.  Village residents also stated that these are indeed the sounds that the wild mountain dog makes.

Disposition of NGSD in Captivity in PNG 1996

Port Moresby Zoo-There are no longer any wild dogs kept at this Zoo Moilaka Wildlife Sanctuary (In Erima)-Of the six NGSD “repatriated” a few wears ago from the Toronga Zoo in Australia, they are all deceased.  The sixth one died last year.

In regard to Robert Bino, his work on NGSD behavior and his paper published in Science in
New Guinea

            Robert Bino is currently working at Crater Mt.  Research Facility under the auspices of Research assistant to visiting scientists.

            I have written extensively to Robert, but was unable to meet with him while I was in PNG.  I collected fecal samples for him to include with the samples he collected at Mekil in 1994.  From what I understand Robert is still correlating information he has gathered from his last analysis and should be reported soon.  I requested a rough draft of his findings, thus far.  I have also acquired a copy of his paper.  “Notes on Behavior of NGSD’S” soon to be published in Science in
New Guinea.

            It is my understanding that Robert will be traveling to the
U.S. (Rhode Island + New York) this coming August to attend a conference and the New York Zoological Society.

            I have made arrangements to have him call me and Dr. Brisbin while he is in the “States”.  I have also arranged for the Associate Curator of Mammals at the NYZP to speak with him when he is there.

            Robert is also interested in attending graduate school and is looking for an advisor.  I pledged to RCF that I would try to assist him with this.

Additional Materials Recovered, Requiring Further Analysis and Examination

Tissue and hair samples from two village dogs with phenotypes resembling closely that of Pure New Highland Wild Dogs.

Tissue collected in 10% buffered formalin.

One of the dogs is said to have been sired by a wild dog.

Complete skull said to be that of a New Guinea Highland Wild Dog upper Carnassial and condylonasal lengths are consistent with those of NGSD skulls (i.e. upper Carnassial is greater than 10% of total jaw length).

Five separate fecal samples obtained from the study area said to be those of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog.

It has been suggested that there are still populations of wild dogs on the summits of Mt. Wilhelm and Mt. Giluwe.  Being National Parks there is no hunting on the mountains so all wild dogs are protected.  With the onset of tourism to these areas, many villages are moving higher up the mountains to satisfy the tourist needs.  With the villagers come village dogs and there is a possibility of hybridization/contamination of pure wild dogs.

It is believed that there are probably wild dogs throughout the high altitudes of the central mountain spine.

It would be difficult to determine the status and numbers of wild dogs in the Mt. Stolle area.  Villagers always have their dogs accompany them to the higher altitudes.  I have asked them from now on, while we are studying the wild dog, not to bring their dogs up to Mekil.

After DNA fingerprinting of the tissue samples of the dogs of Manakomofip, a determination can be made as to the importance of these dogs in regard to their genetic value to the captive populations of NGSD.

PNG “Pijin” Language was not a problem.  With a few adjustments, it is almost interchangeable with
Vanuatu “Bislama”

A more extensive trapping campaign needs to be undertaken at Mekil
.