The Real Kung Fu Pandas
Jaguar Cubs at the Mesker Park Zoo

Orphan Pups in Pittsburgh

The endangered Painted Hunting Dog or African Wild Dog once numbered as many as 500,000 individuals but human population growth has shrunk that number to only about 3,000. Almost unheard of among social mammals, the Painted Hunting Dog's social structure is a submission-based hierarchy, meaning whoever begs the most gets the most food instead of whomever is most aggressive. 

These nine pups were born just days ago at the Pittsburgh Zoo but sadly the mother died shortly thereafter. Luckily a surrogate mixed breed dog was found who was happy to step-in.

African painted dog 1 

African painted dog 3 


Note that the video has no sound



(Pittsburgh) (November, 2009)—A domestic mixed-breed dog is acting as a surrogate mom for nine African painted dog pups after their mother died just a few days following their birth. “Vega, our 10-year-old female African painted dog, gave birth to a litter of pups last Sunday. As a first-time mom she was doing very well,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “The pups were nursing and Vega was very attentive to her brood.” On Wednesday, keepers noticed that Vega seemed lethargic and by 4 p.m. she stopped moving. “We are all very saddened by Vega’s death,” says Dr. Baker. “Our keepers develop close relationships with their animals and feel the loss very deeply.” A necropsy determined that Vega died from a ruptured uterus. Doctors also found that Vega retained one pup in her uterus, which may have contributed to the rupture.

The mother’s death put the pups’ lives in great jeopardy. “The mortality rate for African painted dog pups is 50 percent, even with a healthy mother,” says Dr. Baker. “Our dilemma was whether to attempt to hand-raise the pups or to contact the local animal shelters to find a female dog that had just given birth and was nursing her pups.” The Zoo started a search for a surrogate mom and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society had the perfect candidate – a mixed-breed named “Honey” who had delivered six pups several weeks earlier. Staffers had just started weaning Honey’s pups so she was still able to nurse.

Honey and the African painted dog pups took to each other almost immediately. There are nine pups, six males and three females. “Of course it is still a tentative situation and we are keeping a close watch, but so far everything seems to be good,” says Dr. Baker.

The Zoo has two male dogs-Draco and Puck. African painted dogs are endangered, with only 3,000 to 6,000 remaining in the wild. The Zoo is part of a conservation effort to protect these wonderful animals.