PHOTOS: A wild dog thought long extinct has been spotted in New Guinea - with puppies

Image: New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation, Inc

A wild dog, thought to have been extinct for 50 years, has been confirmed as live and well in a remote high altitude area of the island of New Guinea.

The New Guinea Highland Wild Dog, a missing link species between the first early dogs and the modern domestic animal, is considered a living fossil.

“The discovery and confirmation of the HWD (Highland Wild Dog) for the first time in over half a century is not only exciting but an incredible opportunity for science,” says the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation.

Until this discovery, there were only known to be about 200 of the dogs living in captivity. The dog, believed related to the Australian dingo, was last seen in the wild 50 years ago.

Many feared that the dog had become extinct in its native habitat along New Guinea’s remote central mountain spine.

However, the foundation has fecal samples for DNA analysis and images of the wild dog photographed during an expedition in 2016.

Puppies. Image: New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation, Inc

In September 2016, scientists from the University of Papua, with logistical support from mining company PT Freeport Indonesia and in collaboration with the Southwest Pacific Research Foundation, found and documented a healthy population of Highland Wild Dogs in Papua, an Indonesia Province on the western side of the island of New Guinea.

The team took more than 100 photographs of at least 15 individuals, including males, females, and females with pups ranging in age from 3 to 5 months, living in isolated locations between 3700 metres and 4600 metres above sea level.

Night images from fixed cameras. Image: New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation, Inc

The foundation says the dog is the largest and only apex predator on the whole of New Guinea.

“Further study is not only key to gauging the health and fitness of the ecosystem these dogs inhabit, but vital to understanding canid and human genetics, co-migration and co-evolution,” says the foundation.

“To unlock the secrets of the Highland Wild Dog is to better understand ourselves and our own story.”

The dog is seen as a critical missing link, having evolved free from selective breeding influences imposed by humans.

Pregnant White Cheek Girl urinates off trail while watched by her often seen companion, Fluffy Tail Girl.

And a female investigates a scent lure:

Image: New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation, Inc

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.