ZooBorns strives to highlight the ways animals born at accredited zoos and aquariums can directly support vital conservation programs in the wild. Perhaps no effort better illustrates this than the Red Wolf Recovery Program, for which the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is the flagship breeding facility.
Hunted, poisoned and cut off from natural habitat, Red Wolves were formally declared extinct in the wild after biologists captured the remaining 17 wolves in the 1970s for an ambitious new pilot breeding program. Remarkably, 14 of the those wolves bred in captivity and by 1987 enough pups had been born for the US Fish & Wildlife to attempt reintroduction efforts.
Today over 100 Red Wolves roam their native habitats in northeastern North Carolina. While this a far cry from the tens of thousands that once ranged from New England to Florida, it still represents a tremendous success, marking the first time a predator population has been rebuilt in the wild after being declared extinct in the wild.
On May 14, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium staff were delighted to welcome 8 critically endangered Red Wolf pups to mother Millie, an 8-year-old female, and father 9-year-old Graham. Millie is an attentive and protective mother, said Will Waddell, the zoo’s Red Wolf program coordinator, who also manages the nationwide Red Wolf Species Survival Plan and is part of the Red Wolf Recovery Team.
While these pups are first born on zoo grounds in 29 years, the program has produced hundreds of pups at off-site breeding facilities since its inception.
Zoo staff are working on a closed-circuit camera feed of Millie and her pups in their den so they might be viewable by the media and the public. They likely will come out of their den and into the exhibit in three to four weeks – a purely voluntary action – Waddell said.
Photo credits: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Learn more about the Point Defiance Zoo's leadership in the Red Wolf Recovery Program and visit the program's official US FIsh & Wildlife page. For more info and photos, continue reading after the jump.