This rare, purebred alpine dingo pup is giving conservationists hope
'He's becoming a real ambassador for the species,' says Kevin Newman from the Australian Dingo Foundation
For Kevin Newman, connecting with Wandi the dingo was a delightful surprise.
Residents in Wandiligong, Australia, found what they thought was a stray dog or fox in their backyard garden in August. But, after getting a DNA test, they discovered it was actually a rare, 100 per cent purebred alpine dingo.
Most dingoes in Australia are hybrid wild dog mixes, making Wandi an exciting find for conservationists.
"Often in Australia people will say that there's no pure dingoes left in the wild," Newman, who volunteers at the Australian Dingo Foundation and sanctuary in Melbourne, told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"He's becoming a real ambassador for the species."
The alpine dingo is one of three types of dingoes found in Australia, but the only one considered an endangered species.
According to the Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, the Australian alpine dingo population could be on the verge of extinction within 50 years unless a concerted effort is made to change its fate.
While there are no current government conservation strategies aimed at dingoes, they continue to be threatened by hunters, inbreeding with dogs, and "wild dog" eradication programs, the organization said.
A study published last month in the journal Conservation Genetics, found that between nine and 23 per cent of wild dogs killed on public lands in New South Wales between 1996 and 2012 were, in fact, dingoes.
Wandi is now being cared for by Newman and his colleagues at the sanctuary. They plan to enroll the dingo puppy in a breeding program to help preserve the species's future.
"It's really great for us to have that new genetic information coming into our sanctuary," Newman said. "But also because he's absolutely adorable."
The dingo's new Instagram account has already reached over 25,000 followers. Newman hopes Wandi's newfound-fame will help raise awareness about the vulnerable species.
Newman says the story is particularly serendipitous because Wandi's fate could have been very different.
When the puppy was first delivered to the sanctuary, they noticed several marks on his back. He believes Wandi was accidentally dropped by an eagle or another predator ready to feast on the creature.
"The banjo eagle is very important in the Indigenous Australian culture," he said. "So we figure he's giving us a gift."
While many of Wandi's fans and followers are welcoming him with open arms, Newman says there are many in Australia who view dingoes as a threat to agricultural and local livestock.
He said he hopes the conversations he has with sanctuary visitors can help change people's minds.
"We're changing people's perception, and people are open and willing to do that," he said.
Written by Abby Plener with files from Reuters. Interview produced by Sarah Jackson.