Weeks after discovering a stray puppy in a backyard in rural Australia, DNA tests revealed that the fluffy creature was 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 due to inbreeding, hunting and government eradication programs, according to the Australian and Pacific Science Foundation.
The dingo puppy, since then named Wandy, was discovered in August in the backyard of a resident in Vandiligong, a rural town in the Australian state of Victoria, announced the Australian Dingo Foundation on Thursday.
Later, Wandy was moved to the shrine of the Dingo Foundation while the results of the DNA test were pending.
Lynn Watson, who runs the Australian Dingo Foundation, tells Australian television that the three types of Australian dingoes you include inland and tropical alpine dingots like Wandy are the only ones currently at risk of extinction.
"For us, it will be a very valuable little thing, depending on its eventual development and how it continues to be understood by everyone else in the sanctuary," Watson says.
The rarity of getting purebred as a puppy means that Vandy could eventually become part of the sanctuary's breeding program, which includes about 40 other adult dingos, according to CNN.
According to experts, most dingoes in the island country are hybrids of dingo dogs, 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 is at least fifty percent, and in some cases eighty percent, a domestic dog," says Ricky Spencer, assistant professor of zoology at the University of the West Sydney, at the time of the magazine.
The unnamed resident who found Wandy heard the puppy "hide and cry in the garden, "ABC reports. Initially, the resident believed that Wandy was a stray dog or fox and soon took him to a local vet at Bec Day.
Wandy's initial trip may have ended with him having an eagle dinner or other bird of prey. Instead, the young puppy may have been dropped from his captive coupons, Day told ABC, noting that nails appeared on Vandy's back.
"There were no other puppies nearby," Day said. "The resident has not heard any [other dingoes] calls. So he's a lonely little soul sitting in the backyard. "
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