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Papuan Dogs – the first companions of man

Papuan dogs developed or retained from their wild ancestors peculiar features that only these dogs and partly the closely related dingo possess (F2 and KOLER – MATZNICK et al. 2001, 2003). The long isolation of these varieties of dogs on New Guinea and its geographical extension, the Australian continent, was certainly supportive towards a significant adoption of eventual mutations which these dogs do not share with any others, no matter if their status is regarded as domestic or wild. But it is still not sufficiently understood why these dogs were presumably conservative in their genetic features to that large extent over such long periods of time.

I assume that the selective process over several thousands of years in isolation has favoured retention or rather continuity of those genetic properties which belong to the original spectrum and which we now regard as primitive.Generally the process of increasing domestication by no means should be seen as an improvement only of qualities: we know from comparative research that „domestication“ goes alongside with a reduction of mental and somatic activities, for instance (HEMMER 1983). The frequently noted high intelligence and inquisitive character of NGSDs (F16, F18) I am putting forward as just one example for a „primitive“ property preserved from the ancient past.

These factors which had a prime influence on the evolution of Papuan dogs can be identified:

  • The genetic characteristics of the dogs that were brought into New Guinea at the times of pioneer immigrations [possibly in several waves], cf. chapter D),
  • the selective qualities of regional climate and other environmental effects (cf. chapter E),
  • and the utility aspects of the villagers aiming at specific objectives, like abilities of their dogs for game hunting (cf. chapters F and G).
  • In case of the feral populations in the grasslands of central New Guinea a survival strategy was significant which influenced their social behaviour and their food gathering habits.

Primitive domestic dogs are reared and utilized under traditional conditions which differ in principle from modern society's husbandry. In our urban world there exists considerable wrong perception, even prejudice about the way dogs live in villages and how they are treated by their masters. Why should „ Stone Age tribes“ not be capable to integrate dogs into their homes and ways of life adequately - I rather should say: even better – as compared with NGSDs which „adapted well to living in the modern home as a pet ... with proper training and socialization,...“(F3). Are the kennel cages shown on the same web page, or the bedroom of another NGSD fancier (F12) really a more suitable place for these dogs than a Papuan village compound (cf. chapters F and H)? (figs. 23 - 27, 34, 35).

When comparing photographs of traditionally kept Papuan highland dogs with those of the NGSDs bred in the USA and in Germany (SCHULTZ 1969), the differences in colouration and proportions become obvious: By selective breeding according to the standards set by the New Guinea Singing Club of America and the United Kennel Club the former greater variation and future variability in external (and certainly also invisible) genetic qualities are being reduced to a similiarily narrow band of genetic properties as in other recognized dog breeds. In addition to this elimination and further genetic manipulation one has to bear in mind the fact that all those NDSDs originate from just 4 founder individuals only (F13). The majority of New Guinea highland dog populations was never considered nor represented in any scientific investigations or conservation measures.

Veröffentlicht am Kategorien Gulf of Papua, Papuan Dogs, Rare breeds, Zoological ResearchSchlagwörter , , , ,

Über Thomas Schultze-Westrum

Dr. Thomas Georg Hans SCHULTZE-WESTRUM Author of Scientific and Popular Publications Producer and Director of Documentary Films and Videos Adviser in Nature Conservation and Preservation of Rural Cultures Initiator of Conservation Programmes German national. Born 1937 (Berlin). Classical education at the Benedictine monastery of Ettal in Upper Bavaria. Graduate of Munich University, with degrees in Zoology, Geology and Cultural Anthropology (Ethnology). Scholarship by “Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes”. Research (University of Munich, other scientific institutions) and publications on social and population physiology of marsupials and other vertebrate fauna of New Guinea and the Mediterranean Region, cultural anthropology, conservation and resource management on the village level, mainly in Greece and New Guinea. Author of the books “New Guinea” (Berne 1972) and “Biologie des Friedens” (Biology of Peace), Munich 1974. Dr. Schultze-Westrum has joined for several years the Commissions on Ecology and Environmental Planning of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He is the founder of the working group (IUCN Commission on Ecology) “Conservation and Traditional Life Styles” 1979; the “ECOCULTURE” Movement 1981; the “Gesellschaft für die Erhaltung alter und gefährdeter Haustierrassen” GEH (Society for the Preservation of Old and Endangered Breeds of Domestic Animals) 1981; and the non-profit-making society “KALLIERGIA”, for traditional agriculture and village conservation in Greece, 1993. As a consultant he has worked for the EU, IUCN, OECD and WWF. As a film maker he has produced, directed and mostly also shot, for German television and international TV networks, 75 documentaries, mainly ecological portraits with emphasis upon the integration of local and traditionally living people into conservation projects. His first film (1974) was about alternative (sustainable) utilization of tropical rainforests in New Guinea, for ZDF. Never Dr. Schultze-Westrum has entered any of his films into an award winning competition, because he is more concerned about the effects of his TV work in actual conservation and public awareness. One of these real awards was the creation of the Marine National Park Alonnisos Northern Sporades in Greece as a result of his film “The Coast of the Monk Seals” in 1976/77 for ZDF (ratings 36 % - shown in 11 countries). His programme “Green Desert”, about traditional water management in the Sultanate of Oman was distributed by the Television Trust for the Environment TVE to 44, mainly Third World, countries. Another leading aspect of his film work was the production of environmental films for the people of the country where he was filming. So, he produced the first TV series of films on ecology, rural life styles and conservation for Greece (in the early 80’s, 14 programmes) and for the Sultanate of Oman (late 80’s, 12 films). His deep interest in ancient human traditions inspired him to produce “Omani Seafaring”, for Oman TV; “Im Kielwasser Sindbads” (In the Wake of Sindbad), for the series Terra X of ZDF; and “Insel der Magier” (Island of the Sorcerers: Waigeo) for ARTE TV. After retiring from TV film production at the end of 2002 he is returning to his earlier scientific work (abandoned in the early 70’s) about the social and population physiology of marsupials ( Petaurus breviceps papuanus and closely related species); village based conservation; the evolution of human communal behaviour and cultural diversity; and the evolution of art styles in the Papuan Gulf province of New Guinea. Since 1992 he is also involved in eco- and agrotourism programmes that are based on his earlier promotion of this alternative “soft” tourism through publications and films, in Greece and West Papua. His conservation activities are continuously focussed on Greece and New Guinea, since 1957 and 1959, respectively. Dr. Schultze-Westrum now is writing up his experiences of many years field work and he is keeping communications alive through his homepage, from the ancient village of Kazaviti on the island of Thassos in the northern Aegean Sea. The conservation and re-activation of outstanding traditional values of Kazaviti stand at the centre of a local museum and documentation centre to be set up in one or even two old Macedonian stone houses.