Image: New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation, Inc

The rarest and most ancient dog species, once presumed ‘extinct’, was captured on camera traps in a remote mountainous region in New Guinea.

Scattered reports and unconfirmed photographs of the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog had left scientists mulling over the species’ continued existence for years, but in 2016 researchers finally found proof. After a rare encounter with intact canine paw prints, scientists from the University of Papua teamed up with the Southwest Pacific Research Foundation for a full scientific survey of the remote area of Puncak Jaya, where they encountered sure signs of Highland Wild Dogs.

The expedition uncovered both physical scientific evidence as well as hundreds of camera-trap pictures. Researchers discovered scat, dens, predations, trails, and tracks, in addition to the exceptional footage.

Image: New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation

The New Guinea Highland Wild Dog (HWD) is one of the rarest canids in existence today, thought to be a missing link between primitive canids and the modern domesticated dog.

HWDs are considered apex predator in New Guinea, where they live in the wild at 3700-4600 meters above sea level within a barren, rocky alpine ecosystem speckled with shrubs, lichens, and mosses.

The camera traps revealed at least 15 different individual animals varying in color from gold to ginger, roan, and black. Both sexes were identified, including pregnant females and females with pups.

The dogs persist in small social groups and present classical scavenging behaviors.

A collection of fecal samples during the survey allowed for DNA analysis, linking the wild species to two of their domesticated relatives, the New Guinea Singing Dog and the Australian Dingo.

“The discovery and confirmation of the [HWD] for the first time in over half a century is not only exciting but an incredible opportunity for science,” the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation states on its website.