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Lost Puppy Found in Australia Is Actually Rare Dingo, DNA Test Shows

Wandi is the complete package—adorable and important for his species’ survival

Way to go, Wandi! Save your species! (Australian Dingo Foundation via Instagram )
smithsonian.com

Meet Wandi. He’s extremely cute and very pup-ular on Instagram. But that’s not all—one day, he could play a vital role in saving his own species. That’s because Wandi, a little ball of fluff found completely alone in rural Australia, turns out to be a purebred Australian alpine dingo. The species is endangered and at risk of extinction—and conservationists think Wandi could help.

Residents found Wandi in August near their home in the small town of Wandiligong in the state of Victoria in southeast Australia, report Ashlee Aldridge and Sandra Moon of the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). A family heard him crying and thought he might be a stray puppy or an orphaned fox pup. But after 24 hours, they took him to the Alpine Animal Hospital. Local veterinarian Bec Day told ABC that there hadn’t been any adult dingo calls in the area when the pup was found.

He also had marks on his back that made vets think he had been picked up by an eagle for a meal and dropped miles away from his family.

“He was just a lonely little soul sitting in a backyard,” Day tells ABC.

After submitting a DNA test on Wandi, the animal hospital transferred him to the Australia Dingo Foundation’s sanctuary while they waited for the results. Those results showed exactly what the dingo conservationists were hoping for: Wandi is 100 percent Australian alpine dingo, the foundation announced last week.

Alpine dingoes are one of three types of dingoes in Australia, and the only type that’s endangered. Eradication programs, hunting and inbreeding have all threatened the species’ survival, reports the Washington Post’s Kim Bellware. But now that he’s with the Australian Dingo Foundation, Wandi can one day become one of about 40 adults in their breeding program, reports CNN’s Ben Westcott.

Wandi is especially important because it’s rare for a foundation to take in a purebred dingo, the foundation’s director Lyn Watson told CNN. Most dingoes are mixed with domestic dogs.

"They're our apex predator, they're our lion," says Watson. "Their job is to keep the kangaroo population down. That was their job before the coming of the Europeans, that was their job for thousands of years."

For now, Wandi’s busy having fun with his new dingo friends at the sanctuary and becoming a star on social media. Even though he’s “wild and always will be,” Watson told ABC that he’s been socializing with other dingo pups and likes his human handlers.

But Watson told ABC that he has all the features they look for in the breeding program, and will likely be a successful candidate “depending on his eventual development and the way he continues to get along with everybody else in the sanctuary." She says their goal is to keep the bloodline alive so these dingoes can one day go back to the wild.

"For us he is going to be a very valuable little thing," says Watson.

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