It’s not every day a puppy falls from the sky and lands in your backyard. But that’s exactly what happened to residents of Wandiligong in Victoria, Australia, when they heard whimpers coming from their garden.
After realizing the little puppy didn’t belong to anyone, they took him in and looked after him for 24 hours before taking him to the Alpine Animal Hospital. Everyone was unsure of his identity – was he an abandoned dog, a lost fox, or a dingo puppy?
He also had strange marks on his back, suggesting he had been carried in the talons of a large bird of prey like an eagle, before being dropped. The fact that no other pups could be found nearby also suggests he had been displaced.
To work out what kind of animal he was, the 10-week-old fluffball underwent DNA testing. While the humans were awaiting the results of these tests, the pup, named Wandi, was taken to the Australian Dingo Foundation's Dingo Discovery Sanctuary in Victoria to be looked after.
Amazingly, when the results came in, they showed Wandi was a purebred dingo. This came as welcome news to the sanctuary as he can now partake in their breeding program, helping to conserve his species.
Now four months old, Wandi is an alpine dingo, the type most at risk of extinction. "This type... unfortunately shares the eastern seaboard areas… where 80 percent of the Australian population lives," Director of the Australian Dingo Foundation Lyn Watson told ABC News.
"So not only is the habitat of the alpine dingo dwindling to nothing, but our persecution of this animal – because it sadly looks like a dog – has pushed this beautiful alpine dingo very close to extinction." The two other types of dingo are tropical and desert dingoes.
The Australian dingo is at risk of extinction due to a variety of threats. These include hunting, culling, inbreeding, and interbreeding with domestic dogs, which produces hybrids and dilutes the gene pool.
While many of the people who have encroached on their habitat consider dingoes a nuisance, they are important to the wider ecosystem. For example, they hunt feral cats, which have become a significant problem in Australia, helping to reduce the number of small native animals killed by these invasive felines.
Purebred dingoes like Wandi can help to continue the species, reducing the chances that it will disappear in the coming decades. "We're just keeping the genetic lines going until the day that there's going to be a safe place where they can be rewilded," Watson told CNN.
Dingoes have existed in Australia for millennia, likely introduced by Asian seafarers about 3,500 years ago. They’re both culturally and environmentally important, and, as Wandi proves, downright adorable, so let’s hope these critters can cling on.
To keep up with Wandi's antics, you can follow him on Instagram.