OKC Zoo announces birth of African painted dog pups

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has announced the birth of six endangered African painted dog pups.

According to the Zoo, the pups were born to first-time mom, Pele, on November 5 and 6. The exciting new arrival gives hope to wildlife conservationists as the species’ population has dropped from an estimated 11,800 in 2010 to around 5,000 in the wild in 2022.

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Officials say Pele and her pups are spending plenty of quality time together in their den. The Zoo’s caretakers are able to keep an eye on the pups through video monitoring and have witnessed the babies nursing regularly. Three-year-old Pele came to the OKC Zoo in October 2021, followed by the arrival of males Guy and Remy, also 3, in May 2022.

  • African Painted Dog pup.
    Pele (left), one of the pups and Guy (right). Image courtesy OKC Zoo.
  • African Painted Dog.
    Pele. Image courtesy OKC Zoo.
  • African Painted Dogs.
    Guy (left), Remy (front) and Pele (right). Image courtesy OKC Zoo.

“Every birth at the Oklahoma City Zoo is significant and we’re extremely excited to have our first litter of African painted dog puppies in our Predator Pass Habitat since opening in 2021 and the first at the Zoo since 2016.” said Tyler Boyd, the Zoo’s Curator of Carnivores. “We are currently focused on letting mom continue to bond with the newest additions behind the scenes, along with the rest of the pack—something vital to their success.”

The Zoo says African painted dogs are social creatures with colorful coats, fluffy white tails and large ears. They live in groups between 2 and 40 dogs and have a complex hierarchy that is normally dominated by a monogamous breeding pair. The pack dynamic even stays true in captivity.

“The Oklahoma City Zoo has a rich history of support for African painted dogs, both at the Zoo and in the wild.” Boyd said. “By supporting conservation programs specifically targeting African painted dogs, we can not only increase awareness about this dynamic species to our guests here at home, but also continue to learn about this remarkable species through programs strategically created to conserve African painted dogs throughout their range, helping save this species from extinction.”

Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE).
Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE).

One way the OKC Zoo helps with conservation is supporting the SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The program focuses on increasing the impact that AZA-accredited zoos have on species conservation.

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Since 2016, the Zoo has also worked alongside the Painted Dog Research Trust (PDRT) to offer financial support from its Round Up for Conservation Fund for research and conservation efforts. It has even sent Zoo experts to help with research and education programs in Zimbabwe. The Zoo has been caring for African painted dogs since 1972 and currently has 9 painted dogs as part of its family.

In 2022, African painted dog conservationist and PDRT founder Dr. Greg Rasmussen came to the OKC Zoo to give a conservation lecture for the Zoo’s team members on the current state of their population, stressing threats of their survival and PDRT’s efforts to keep them from extinction. Dr. Rasmussen has studied the dogs in Zimbabwe for more than 30 years, one of the longest studies of the species.

Guests can keep an eye on the Zoo’s social media for updates on the pups and their public viewing debut.

To learn more, visit okczoo.org.

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