Dogs, Dholes & Dingoes

Endangered Painted Dogs Arrive By the Dozen

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The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s African Painted Dog pack grew from four to sixteen in mid-October when four-year-old mom Imara gave birth to a dozen pups!

It’s not the first time Imara has had her paws full. In January of 2015, she produced and raised a litter of ten pups, with the help of her first mate, Brahma.  This time, in addition to having new dad, Kwasi, as a helper, she’ll have assistance from her older offspring, Lucy (the only pup from the original litter that’s still in Cincinnati) and the new litter’s uncle, Masai (dad’s brother).

“Kwasi and Masai lived in a multigenerational pack that numbered 23 dogs at one point, so they’re well versed in dog etiquette. They witnessed the birth of at least one litter of pups and should be able to figure out their roles as father and helper,” said Christina Gorsuch, Curator of Mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo and Vice Coordinator of the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP).

“The social structure of African Painted Dogs is built around the raising of pups -the entire pack works together to ensure that the female and her pups have everything they need to succeed and survive. Just like in the wild, the members of our pack will help Imara by guarding the den box, regurgitating meat, and babysitting the pups when Imara leaves the den box.”

Kwasi and Masai, are both five-years-old and originally from the Perth Zoo in Australia. The male siblings arrived in Cincinnati, this past summer, with a breeding recommendation from the SSP.

“We felt pretty confident that Imara would remain our alpha female but the male dogs were a bit of an unknown. Within minutes of the group’s introduction, Imara and Kwasi clearly identified each other as alphas and Masai and Lucy displayed all the appropriate submissive behaviors. It was really amazing to see Imara teaching Lucy all the proper dog social skills for meeting new males. In Painted Dog packs, usually only the alpha pair breed and produce pups. We are very happy to see our pack functioning in similar ways to their wild counterparts,” said Gorsuch.

The pack has access to the outdoor exhibit, but visitors are not likely to see pups for a couple of months. Keepers expect Imara to keep them safely tucked away in their behind-the-scenes den.

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Photo/ Video Credits: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The African Painted Dog (Lycaon pictus), also known as the African Wild Dog or African Hunting Dog, is a canid native to Sub-Saharan Africa. They are known for their large, round ears and beautiful, multi-colored coats. The species could once be found all over Africa. Today they are one of the most endangered carnivores on the continent, with fewer than 5,000 dogs concentrated in parts of southern and eastern Africa. They are currently classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN.

Today, there are approximately 122 African Painted Dogs in 37 North American Zoos and 534 in Zoos worldwide. Gestation period for the species is approximately 68-73 days. Litters typically include 6 to 12 pups but can number up to 20. Pup survival rate is about 52%, making it a difficult population to sustain.

The Cincinnati Zoo supports the conservation of African Painted Dogs and other wildlife in southern Tanzania through the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP). The RCP works with local communities to help ensure the survival of carnivores and people in and around Ruaha National Park.

The third largest African Painted Dog population lives in the Ruaha region and is also home to 10% of Africa’s Lions. The RCP documents the presence and location of wildlife species through community-reported sightings and photos taken by motion-triggered cameras, or camera traps. The project aims to gather baseline data on carnivore numbers and ecology and work with the local communities to reduce human-carnivore conflict.


Pack of Pups Takes it Outside

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It didn’t take long for a litter of ten African Painted Dog pups at the Audubon Zoo to figure out how to enjoy the great outdoors on their first foray outside their den. 

The family remained behind the scenes at the zoo for about six weeks after the pups’ birth on September 11.  But last week, the pups entered their outdoor habitat for the very first time.  They were hesitant at first, but after lots of sniffing and encouragement from their parents, the pups began to do what pups do – play! 

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Photo Credit:  Audubon Zoo



The pups are the first litter for parents Sienna, age 4, and Pax, age 9.  Because African Painted Dogs are endangered and are bred in only a few zoos, this birth is highly significant for the species.  Pax is one of the most genetically valuable members of the African Painted Dog population under human care.

Also known as African Wild Dogs, the animals can be found on the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the threats posed by habitat loss, poaching, snares, and poisoning, the Painted Dog population is at an all-time low of about 5,000 individuals in the wild.

There are approximately 112 African Painted Dogs in 37 North American zoos, and the pup survival rate is about 52 percent, so the survival of all ten of Sienna’s cubs is unusual.

Audubon Zoo and other accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums member institutions work together to manage Species Survival Plan programs for African Painted Dogs and other endangered species to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically stable population. Audubon Nature Institute has raised funds to help renowned British wildlife biologist Greg Rasmussen, the founder and director of the Painted Dog Conservation Project, who has studied the species for more than two decades.

See more photos of the pups below.

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Tiny Squeals Reveal Bush Dog Pups in Underground Den

FB TW Two litters of bush dog pups have been born and started to venture outside for the first time at Chester Zoo (52)Two litters of Bush Dog pups at the Chester Zoo have begun to venture outside their dens for the first time.  The first litter, consisting of five pups, was discovered in August after keepers heard tiny squeals coming from the den. A second set arrived in September, but the number of pups is not yet known.  Some pups in the second litter may still be tucked in underground burrows.

The pack of pups means non-stop action in the Bush Dog exhibit.  The pups play-fight and explore most of the day.  When intervention is needed, the moms carry the pups in their mouths, careful not to injure the youngsters with their sharp teeth.

Two litters of bush dog pups have been born and started to venture outside for the first time at Chester Zoo (29)
Two litters of bush dog pups have been born and started to venture outside for the first time at Chester Zoo (57)
Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo



Bush Dogs are not well studied, so Chester Zoo keepers hope that these two litters will add to the knowledge base for the species.  For example, it is rare for two litters to be produced within one pack only weeks apart.  Normally, the alpha male and only one female produce offspring.

Once all the pups emerge, the zoo staff will weigh, sex, and microchip the pups, and conduct a hands-on health check.  This will allow the staff to monitor each individual pup’s progress.

Bush Dogs are native to Central and South America, where they inhabit wet forests and grasslands.  They hunt in packs to chase down small mammals, lizards, and birds, but can also hunt and kill animals twice their size.  With a web of skin between their toes, Bush Dogs are excellent swimmers. 

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Bush Dogs as Near Threatened after their wild numbers dropped by more than 25% in just 12 years. They have suffered from habitat loss from farming, a loss of prey species, and from contracting diseases spread by other canines or domestic dogs.

See more photos of the pups below.

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A Cheetah and His Dog

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The Columbus Zoo’s ten-week-old Cheetah cub, Emmett, recently met his new companion puppy, seven-week-old Cullen!

Emmett was born at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. Due to a bout of pneumonia, he was hand-reared, for several weeks, while receiving treatments. After his recovery, he was moved to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Emmett picked Cullen to be his companion dog, and the two have become quite the pair! Cullen will help Emmett to be more confident and calm. Emmett will soon begin his travels with Jungle Jack Hanna’s team and be an ambassador for his cousins in the wild. Cullen will be with him every step of the way!

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4_14188436_10153934649177106_4843894163779890520_oPhoto Credits: The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a big cat that is native to eastern and southern Africa and a few parts of Iran.

The Cheetah is characterized by a slender body, deep chest, spotted coat, a small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, long thin legs and a long spotted tail. It reaches nearly 70 to 90 cm (28 to 35 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 21–72 kg (46–159 lb). Though taller than the leopard, it is notably smaller than the lion.

Cheetahs are active mainly during the day, with hunting its major activity. Adult males are sociable despite their territoriality, forming groups called "coalitions". Females are not territorial; they may be solitary or live with their offspring in home ranges. Cheetahs mainly prey upon antelopes and gazelles.

The speed of a hunting Cheetah averages 64 km/h (40 mph) during a sprint; the chase is interspersed with a few short bursts of speed, when the animal can clock 112 km/h (70 mph). Cheetahs are induced ovulators, breeding throughout the year. Gestation is nearly three months long, resulting in a litter of typically three to five cubs (the number can vary from one to eight). Weaning occurs at six months; siblings tend to stay together for some time. Cheetah cubs face higher mortality than most other mammals, especially in the Serengeti region. Cheetahs also inhabit a variety of habitats: dry forests, scrub forests and savannahs.

The Cheetah is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. The species has suffered a substantial decline in its historic range due to rampant hunting in the 20th century. Several African countries have taken steps to improve the standards of conservation.


Meet Shedd Aquarium’s Latest Rescue ‘Pup’

1_Peach D75Q2320Meet Peach-- a 10-month-old Dachshund/Terrier mix that was born in the southern United States. Found tied to a dumpster and bearing the marks of neglect (as evidenced by the scar running the length of her back), she was placed in a nearby high-kill shelter.

Through the help of volunteers, Peach eventually found her way to The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago, Illinois. Once in the Chicago area, more good fortune was provided for the friendly dog. Officials at The Anti-Cruelty Society thought she was an excellent candidate for a special rescue and rehabilitation program at Shedd Aquarium

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4_Peach D75Q2309Photo Credits: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez ; Video footage: Sam CejtinPeach is currently being integrated into Shedd Aquarium’s dog program. The focus for now is getting her acclimated to her new home and building a positive and trusting relationship with her trainers. As with all other animals, she will make progress in her training as her comfort level allows. Shedd’s animal care staff is confident that she will make a smooth transition to her new home. She is young and her socialization will begin immediately – both with trainers and other dogs.  

Since her arrival at Shedd Aquarium, Peach has been nothing but very sweet. She is already open to interacting with people, and she is very playful with the other dogs at the aquarium. According to Shedd tradition, Peach was named after a character in the popular animated feature, Finding Nemo.

Peach currently weighs a healthy 20 pounds, and she has a short black coat with a large white spot on her chest.

She is the seventh dog to be adopted by Shedd Aquarium from a Chicago-area shelter, since 2013, and one of four dogs currently at the aquarium; two other animals have since been adopted into loving homes. These animals connect guests to living world, highlighting the “Shedd Way” of training through positive reinforcement and demonstrating how individuals can build strong relationships with the animals in their lives.

Peach may eventually be included in the aquarium’s “One World” show, which focuses on the interconnectivity of the living world and the impact we have on our shared environments.

Just as Shedd rescues endangered Sea Otters, Rock Iguanas, Corals and other threatened species, guests can make a difference for animals by adopting pets from shelters. Each year, 3 million unwanted dogs just like Peach (and Shedd’s other rescue dogs: Marlin, Dory and Kobe) are euthanized; nearly 90 percent of those deaths could be avoided with the right training. Shedd Aquarium’s dogs are examples of the potentially great companions that are just waiting for the right owners at animal shelters around the country.

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One, Two, Three Litters of Puppies!

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Keepers at Great Britain’s Port Lympne Reserve are celebrating as not one but three litters of endangered African Painted Dog puppies make their public debut.

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African painted pups get their health checks at Port Lympne Reserve c Dave Rolfe
Photo Credit:  Dave Rolfe


The puppies, a mix of males and females, are now three months old and bring the number of African Painted Dogs at the reserve to 43, split between five packs.

Adrian Harland, Animal Director, explained that a recent health check showed that all the pups are strong and healthy.  Keepers administered vaccinations and weighed each pup.

African Painted Dogs are one of the most effective hunters in the world and will normally live in packs of 20 to 40 members. Found mainly in Southern Africa, experts estimate that as few as 3,000 African Painted Dogs remain in the wild.  Conflicts with humans encroaching on their habitat, illegal hunting, and risk of disease are all factors in their decline.

Breeding programs in zoos and reserves are important to the future of this unique species.

See more photos of the puppies below.

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Update: Wild Dogs Pups Raised by Surrogate Have Names!

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Three endangered African Wild Dog pups raised by a Golden Retriever at the Oklahoma City Zoo now have names refelecting their African heritage and their surrogate mother.

Four pupsPhoto Credit:  Oklahoma City Zoo

Born on November 7, the pups were removed from their mother when keepers observed that she failed to provide maternal care.  When the pups were a few days old, they were placed with  Lilly, a Golden Retriever who was a proven mother and had just delivered a single pup herself.  You can read the pups’ story in this ZooBorns post.

The pups, two females and one male, now weigh six pounds and have been weaned from Lilly.  

The zoo staff chose the pups’ names to reflect their African heritage and to honor their surrogate mom. Ayana’s name translates as ‘beautiful flower,’ while Zahra’s name means ‘flowering.’  Male pup Maji’s name translates as ‘water lily.’  Lilly’s pup has been named Uno.

All four of the pups have benefitted from their time together, as Lilly has taught them “dog etiquette” and many other important social skills.  Lilly, a former rescue dog, will soon leave the zoo with Uno.  

Ayana, Zahra, and Maji are gradually being introduced to the other members of the zoo’s African Wild Dog pack. For now, they can see and smell each other, but it may be several months before they fully integrate with the pack.

African Wild Dogs have vanished from much of their range in sub-Saharan Africa.  They live highly social lives in packs of 2-20 adults and their pups.  They specialize in hunting Gazelles, which they chase to exhaustion.  Food is regurgitated not only for pups, but for other adults as well, and this forms the basis of important social connections within the packs.  African Wild Dogs are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

 


Five Golden Jackals Shine at NaturZoo Rheine

Jackal_cFive Golden Jackal pups were born this spring at Germany’s NaturZoo Rheine.  Though not rare in the wild, this species is seldom found in zoos.

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The Golden Jackal pack at NaturZoo Rheine lives “semi-wild” in an enclosure with Sloth Bears.  The Jackals dig burrows, where they sleep and raise their young.  

Zoo keepers become aware of new pups not by seeing the pups themselves – instead, they see the adult female’s enlarged teats, indicating that she is nursing pups.  The young Jackals remain in the den for several weeks. Then, the first sightings of pups begin to take place.  Until keepers see all of the pups outside at once, it is difficult to tell the size of the litter.  But they now know for sure that they have five pups!

Golden Jackals live in eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.  They travel in family units and adapt readily to changes in the food supply, feeding on anything from rodents, birds, fruits, and fish, to tubers and nuts.  Jackals figure prominently in European and Middle Eastern folklore, where they often play the role of a sly trickster.

See more photos of the Golden Jackal pups below.

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Elvis the Beagle Sniffs Out Pregnant Polar Bears

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What do a two-year-old Beagle named Elvis and pregnant Polar Bears have in common?  Scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) have brought them together to detect pregnancy in Polar Bears living in zoos.

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Traditional pregnancy detection methods like hormone monitoring and ultrasounds don’t work well in Polar Bears.  With climate change threatening wild Polar Bear populations, CREW’s staff is getting creative to help save this important species, and they’ve found a possible helper in Elvis the Beagle. 

Working with professional dog trainer Matt Skogen, CREW is trying to determine if the sensitive noses of canines like Elvis can distinguish a pregnant Polar Bear from a non-pregnant Bear simply by smelling fecal samples.

“This is the first time sniffer dogs have been used in biomedical research as it relates to any wildlife species, making this project truly one-of-a-kind,” said CREW’s Dr. Erin Curry. Currently, Elvis is demonstrating 97% accuracy in positive identification of samples from pregnant females – which is not only incredible but nearly as accurate as over-the-counter human pregnancy tests.

Since January, Matt has used more than 200 training samples collected from Polar Bears of known pregnancy status to help Elvis refine his detection technique. 

Last month, Elvis’s skills were put to the test.  He tested samples from 17 female Polar Bears whose pregnancy status is unknown.  The zoos are eager to know if these females are pregnant so they can monitor these Polar Bears and make preparations.  Pregnant Bears could be isolated with minimal disruption while being closely monitored by camera 24/7 in anticipation of a birth, whereas non-pregnant females would remain swimming and socializing all winter with their exhibitmates.

Read more about Elvis and Polar Bears below the fold.

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Edinburgh Zoo Welcomes an Endangered African Hunting Dog Puppy

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On October 23, carnivore keepers at Edinburgh Zoo announced the birth of an African Hunting Dog—a first for the zoo! The announcement coincides with the reopening of the hunting dog walkway, which keepers had closed to visitors in August as they suspected Jet, the pack’s non-dominant female, was pregnant. 

With less than 5,500 African Hunting Dogs left in the wild, the birth of this puppy is an immense achievement for Edinburgh Zoo. Habitat fragmentation is one of the biggest factors in the hunting dogs’ decline, as the packs need a large range in order to remain sustainable. Hunting Dogs are also heavily persecuted by farmers, even though the dogs rarely attack livestock. Education and conservation breeding programs, such as the one Edinburgh Zoo is part of, remain crucial to saving this species from extinction.

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Darren McGarry, head of living collections at Edinburgh Zoo says, “We are all really excited about the arrival of this puppy. Hunting Dogs, like many other pack animals, are very difficult to breed successfully. Although we don’t know its sex yet, this pup is proving to be a real bundle of attitude. It’s very bold for such a young age and we’ve often spotted it tugging along joints of meat that are twice its size. All of the dogs have been seen feeding it and it looks like an established member of the pack."

He continues, “Most first-time mothers can be very nervous, so we decided to close the enclosure to visitors in order to give Jet and her pup the best chance of a successful birth. Hunting dogs have a very intricate social hierarchy and if they feel threatened this can cause the mother to reject her pups.”

In about a week, the puppy will be caught for its first health check and to be sexed. As Hunting Dog puppies are born black and white and only start to get their mottled markings at around two months old, the keepers will only name the feisty little pup once its colors have come through. 

Although Edinburgh Zoo’s pack has two males, Blade and Two Socks, only Blade, the dominant male, will breed with the pack’s females. Usually, the dominant female will be the one to have pups but it is not uncommon for lower-ranking females to also give birth. The zoo’s keepers are confident that this pup will be the first of many for their pack.