Tracking ancient dog populations in Africa

  • First Basenji's

    Saw this link circulating elsewhere, but didn't see it here –

    The Boykos have been on a mission to collect DNA samples of village dogs from all around the world in an effort to unravel the details of the origin(s) of the domesticated dog. This summer, they intend to go to Liberia and the DRC, which is where they think they can find some of the "purest" genetic remnants of the original African dogs.

    They're trying to raise $8000 to fund the project. They are only at about 40% with just a little more than a month to meet their goal. The way this fundraising website works is that you pledge a certain amount, and if the project meets its stated goal, only then are you charged. If the project does not meet its funding goal, you are not charged.

    I have pledged a bit because this is certainly research that I am interested in. They have some interesting thank you gifts for higher pledges – including, most interestingly, an offer to bring back a live, rescue African village dog for a donation of $5000. Of course, a rigorous adoption application and procedure applies.

    Check out the video they made to explain the project.
    More information found on the project website as well:

  • I like the idea of the study but I'm a bit turned off by the "african puppy" terms in the fine print. Seems more like a trophy for the donor. It's not something you would typically see with legitimate scientific research, IMO. Dogs live very differently over there than they do here. And there may be challenges adapting the puppy to life here.


  • First Basenji's

    I can see how that would be off-putting… Without knowing the full details of how they wish to proceed (as nobody has yet taken up their offer on one of two possible African village dog adoptions), my take on this is that --

    -- the monetary donation is not really related to the "value" of the dog, but the "value" of the project. It is a trophy in some ways, representative of the donor's contribution to long-term scientific inquiry. So...

    -- whomever is willing to invest THAT much in their research project probably has other related interests, whether they are have ties with the region or love dogs or the idea of international village dog adoption. These are qualities that would hopefully predispose a potential adopter from being a good match in the first place. This is just an assumption though. Again, nobody has taken them up on that offer yet.

    At any rate, I'm hoping they will carefully screen the potential adopter, and reserve the right to reject any application if they see reason for concern. From their fine print:

    African puppy reward: If you select this award, you will be required to show that you can provide a good home for the dog before you will be given one. Street dogs can require significant investment in time and training. The puppy will be approximately 2-3 months old and given to you in New York or southern New England. We will pay the costs for the necessary paperwork and transportation costs to get it there. If you would prefer the puppy be delivered to you somewhere else, you will need to pay the cost for it to fly with one of us from New York or Boston to your location (if you live outside the lower 48 US states please contact us at before pledging this to see if we can work an arrangement out). You will need to pay the costs for any vaccines or care after it arrives and will need to be able to quarantine it at your house until a month after it has its rabies shot at around three months of age.

    So they do acknowledge the difficulty of adapting a village dog to US life. I guess one thing that concerns me is that they make no mention of a spay/neuter contract, though at the same time I'm not so sure about pediatric S/N. Hmm. I might bring this up in the comments of the project page.

  • That is weird….really no different than auctioning off a puppy for a fundraiser...

  • Yes, I agree with you, Andrea.

    I see that they are also researching the Language of the Bonobos so I wonder if Dr Jo has any information about them? If she's still on the forum, of course.

    They are intending to visit the DRC and are asking for supporting funds for that as well. I do hope that they are not offering one to a generous donor!

  • First Basenji's

    Uh… is it even legal to export a Bonobo for "personal" reasons, let alone keep one as a pet?? I imagine it's a very different set of concerns there, let alone legalities. International adoption of street dogs, on the other hand, is a global phenomenon that has been going on for at least a few decades in the modern world. I think that's why I see that "prize" as a less problematic offer, assuming they're following acceptable protocol about how to handle pre-adoption screening and post-adoption care.

    I posted this question on the page:

    Hello, I've made a pledge and have shared this petridish site with some friends. A few questions have come up that I was hoping your team could address. Specifically, some concerns have been raised about how you would proceed with the potential African puppy adoption if indeed you receive a $5000 pledge (or two). Are you networking with any existing dog rescue agencies, either in Liberia or the DRC or the US, to help ensure the thoroughness of the adoption screening procedure and to provide some kind of safety net should the dog ever need to be returned for any reason? What are your spay/neuter policies for this dog adoption? Does the project team or another organization provide ongoing support and education to ensure that the adopter is adequately prepared to meet the challenge of "significant investment in time and training" in order to raise a street dog or a puppy?

    I hope you will consider posting a follow-up to these questions, as the mere fact that a live "rescue" is being offered as a donation reward is a cause for concern with several people with whom I have shared this link. Thank you in advance.

    Their answer:

    Thanks for your question and your support of the project! Anyone considering a $5000 donation and interested in adopting a dog should contact us before making their donation so that we can go over the adoption process, confirm that the dog would be provided for, and work with owner to match them with an appropriate African dog from an appropriate agency/organization. All reputable rescue organizations, including domestic ones like the SPCA, have adoption requirements, and donors who are unable or unwilling to meet these requirements will not be able to receive a dog. Ownership of any dog is not something that should be taken lightly; contacting us ahead of time will help us ensure that the adoption process is in everyone's best interest.

    I don't know if that helps a little. At any rate, I don't question the credentials of this research team. But they probably have more experience with wrangling street dogs on location than dealing with overseas dog adoptions, as this is obviously a rather atypical offer for the general public.

  • It concerns me that they are referencing this so called Trophy puppy as a rescue. If they are indigenous wild dogs or village dogs, then why would there be a need for them to be rescued? What is there is more than one $5000 donation given? Does that mean there will be another puppy (cough) rescued?

    Why is the information about $5000 donations and the Trophy, award, or whatever you would as rescue puppy all in smaller fine print?

    How come there is no mention of an agreement to have that puppy neutered or spayed?

    Don't we have enough puppies that need rescuing in this country? Is there a need to support puppy rescue imports?

    While I am not challenging the legitimacy of the study or the researchers, I would certainly do more research and probe much deeper before accepting everything without question. Are their respective universities that they are using to validate their credentials connected in any way? If they are then wouldn't their universities have a say so over the parameters of the project and the distribution of information?

    Sorry but there are too many unanswered questions for me.

    Their efforts do not seem to follow the traditional scientific fund raising efforts. I do not think that Jane Goodall give away rescue chimpanzees for significant donations to finance any of her trips.

    Whats next, door to door candy and bake sales?

  • The whole thing seems like a scam. They're a lot of people looking to take people's money then disappear. I would not give money to someone or organization I did not really know or know about if they are really legit (google search Kony 2012)

  • First Basenji's

    Regardless of how you feel about the African puppy adoption, I do not believe you've paid enough attention to the available details of the project if you are trying to call this a scam.

    They are legitimate researchers. They have been working on this for years. I have read their publications before in peer-reviewed research journals, and their latest findings are regularly cited, discussed, and debated by scientists (note that they are far out of my own field, but I do try to pay attention to peer-reviewed research that I find accessible to my own level of understanding – which they do aim to provide).

    Here's the latest lab page for Adam Boyko:

    You can check out his CV on that page, which includes live links to various published research going all the way back to 2004 (though not necessarily all on dogs).

    At this point, it doesn't look like they're going to raise the $8K through this Petridish site, but you'll see from the list of awards and grants that their projects have already received that this is a drop in the bucket.

    Anyway, point taken that one should do their own research on any organization, group, or individual before deciding to contribute.

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