December 03, 2012
Cropped close-up of New Guinea singing dog. This is arguably the first time the dingo-like canine has been photographed in the wild. Photo by: Tom Hewitt.
"When we reached [our guide and cook] the guide proclaimed 'dog,'" Hewitt writes in a blog entry about his trip up Mandala Mountain. "This took me quite by surprise and it took three explanations by him for me to understand. But sure enough above us on the rocky outcrop in the bush there was a dog—the guide seemed as bemused by it being there as we were. [...] We watched it for around 15 minutes as it continued to watch us. It seemed as curious as we were but not particularly scared or nervous. What stood out was how healthy it looked upon closer examination with binoculars."
Hewitt's sighting is the first report ever of a New Guinea sighting dog in the region. Described as looking like foxes, due to reddish coats, the dogs are known for an ability to climb trees.
"At the time of the sighting we were in a dramatic, wide valley with 4,000 [meter] peaks and limestone walls with waterfalls on either side," Hewitt continues. "We spent a total of 4 days camping in this valley and there was regular contact with a number of exciting animals: couscous, possums and even tree kangaroos were seen most days, as well as many unidentified ground nesting birds living in the swamp grass. One species of bird of paradise was heard in the lower forest, but not seen. There were a few highland flowers and grasses and occasional groves of an ancient cycad species—primordial in every respect."
No one knows how rare the New Guinea singing dog has become, but in addition to being imperiled by breeding with domestic canines, the species is also hunted by locals. It is killed as a competitor and often eaten. Almost nothing is known about its life in the wild.
There are no active conservation programs working to protect the species in New Guinea, however there are a number of groups in the U.S.—including New Guinea Singing Dog International and the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society—that promote establishing a strong captive population as an insurance policy against extinction on the island. Just over 200 New Guinea singing dogs are found both in captivity outside New Guinea, but the population is severely inbred.
New Guinea singing dog (center of the photo). Photo by: Photo by: Tom Hewitt.
The valley where the New Guinea singing dog was photographed. Photo by: Tom Hewitt.
Whale only known from bones washes up on beach in New Zealand
(11/05/2012) In 2010, a whale mother and male calf were found dead on Opape Beach in New Zealand. Although clearly in the beaked whale family—the most mysterious marine mammal family—scientists thought the pair were relatively well-known Gray's beaked whales (Mesoplodon grayi). That is until DNA findings told a shocking story: the mother and calf were actually spade-toothed beaked whales (Mesoplodon traversii), a species no one had ever seen before as anything more than a pile of bones.
After seven year search, scientists film cryptic predator in Minas Gerais
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Scientific expedition to survey species in China's Bigfoot territory
(07/02/2012) This month, nearly 40 scientists will enter a wild and remote region of western China, reports China's state media Xinhua. Spending several weeks in Shennongjia Nature Reserve, the researchers hope to study rare species like the golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. But the forest is also the source of China's 'wild man' sightings; known locally as the 'Yeren,' the unconfirmed primate has also been dubbed China's Bigfoot.
Genetic analysis reveals 79 new species of sharks and rays, many likely endangered
(06/27/2012) Analyzing the DNA sequences of 4,383 specimens of sharks and rays, researchers have discovered 79 potentially new species, raising both the known diversity of this predacious family and concerns that many species are likely more imperiled than thought. Already 32 percent of open ocean sharks and rays are considered threatened with extinction by the IUCN Red List, due largely to overfishing, finning, bycatch, and prey depletion.
Does the Tasmanian tiger exist? Is the saola extinct? Ask the leeches
(04/30/2012) The use of remote camera traps, which photograph animals as they pass, has revolutionized research on endangered and cryptic species. The tool has even allowed scientists to document animals new to science or feared extinct. But as important as camera traps have become, they are still prohibitively expensive for many conservationists and require many grueling hours in remote forests. A new paper in Current Biology, however, announces an incredibly innovative and cheaper way of recording rare mammals: seek out the leeches that feed on them. The research found that the presence of mammals, at least, can be determined by testing the victim's blood for DNA stored in the leech.