PUPDATE: Endangered African Painted Dog Pups Explore Outdoor Habitat for the First Time at Audubon Zoo
Visitors to Audubon Zoo tomorrow will get a first look at the 10 newborn African Painted dogs exploring their outdoor habitat. The pups, the first ever born at Audubon Zoo, are the offspring of first-time parents: Sienna, 4 and Pax, 9 and were born on September 11, 2016. For the past several weeks, the family has been bonding in their indoor den. Only a handful of accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has bred painted dogs, one of the most endangered carnivores on the African continent. The pups ventured outside their den for the first time today and are ready to meet the public tomorrow, Tuesday, November 1, 2016.
The "painted dog'' moniker refers to their irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of red, black, brown, white and yellow fur. Also known as African wild dogs, the animals typically can be found on the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.
Audubon Zoo's accomplishment is important not only to the preservation of the species but also for efforts to raise public awareness about the plight of painted dogs in the wild and to garner support for conservation.
"African painted dogs are a species that continues to be persecuted by human civilization. Ranchers view them as threats to their land and livestock. Faced with the constant threats from habitat loss, poaching, snares and poisoning, the painted dog population is down to only about 5,000 in the wild.''
Conservation initiatives include educating villagers about the important role painted dogs play in maintaining the African savanna ecosystem and fitting dogs with radio collars to track movement and help anti-poaching teams protect the species.
Audubon Nature Institute has raised funds to help renowned British wildlife biologist Greg Rasmussen build a solar-powered field laboratory dedicated to painted dog research in Zimbabwe. Rasmussen, the founder and director of the Painted Dog Conservation Project who has been a guest speaker at Audubon Zoo, has studied the species for more than two decades.
Rasmussen consulted with Audubon Zoo on design changes to painted dog habitat, and based on his suggestions, a "turn'' was added to create a safer, more natural feel to the dogs' den.
Audubon Zoo plans to welcome Rasmussen back in the near future and will continue to offer financial support for his painted dog conservation efforts.
Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and a leader of efforts to increase the future sustainability of the African painted dog gene pool, called the births at Audubon Zoo a remarkable event.
"There are approximately 112 African painted dogs in 37 North American zoos which makes every birth very important,'' Gorsuch said. "Pup survival rate is about 52 percent, making it a difficult population to sustain. So the fact that Sienna had 10 pups and all 10 have survived is definitely something to celebrate.''
Gorsuch also noted that Pax, the father, is one of the most genetically valuable members of the African painted dog population under human care.
Audubon Zoo and other AZA member institutions work together to manage Species Survival Plan programs for African painted dogs and other endangered species. AZA members monitor the demographic and genetic status of endangered populations and recommend breeding pairs and transfers designed to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically stable population for the long-term future.
To learn more about African painted dog conservation, click here.
African Painted Dog Facts:
- Every African painted dog has its own coat pattern, as unique as human fingerprints.
- The long-legged canines have big rounded ears and only four toes per foot unlike other dogs which have five toes on their forefeet.
- African painted dogs live in packs that are usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair. A designated "babysitter'' adult dog will stay behind with pups during a hunt.
- Females can have litters of two to 20 pups which are cared for by the entire pack.
- These dogs are extraordinarily social and packs are known to share food and to assist weak or ill members. They communicate by touch, actions and vocalizations.
- They are formidable hunters and travel in packs of up to 20 members that hunt antelopes and larger prey, including wildebeests.The dogs supplement their diets with rodents and birds.
- As human settlements expand, the dogs have developed a taste for livestock. As a result, they are often hunted and killed by farmers.
- They are susceptible to diseases spread by domestic animals.
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