A remarkable Golden Retriever, named ‘Lilly’, is helping save a litter of endangered African Wild Dogs, at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, by becoming their surrogate mother.
The African Wild Dog puppies, one male and two females, were born early on November 7th, to mother ‘Xena’, a three-year-old female. Xena, an inexperienced mother, showed a lack of maternal care, and the Zoo’s animal care team made the decision to remove the pups.
“In preparation for the birth, we had been monitoring Xena 24/7 by video. We knew that she was an unproven mother and wanted to be ready to intervene if necessary,” said Laura Bottaro, Animal Curator. “We are hopeful that these dogs will thrive in Lilly’s care and when they reach an appropriate age for socialization we will be able to successfully reintroduce them to their pack.”
Zoo caregivers provided around-the-clock care for the puppies and started the process to find a surrogate mother for the litter. They initiated calls to colleagues, animal shelters, and dog rescue groups to find a lactating, domestic dog, that was proven to be a good mother and comfortable with people. Luck would have it that Lilly, a retired search and rescue dog living in Wichita, Kansas, was able to fulfill the role of surrogate mother for these African Wild Dogs. Lilly recently gave birth to a single puppy, and it is being raised alongside the African Wild Dog pups. The puppies are doing well and will remain under veterinary care and out of public view at the Zoo’s animal hospital.
“Even though Lilly’s not an African Wild Dog, she’s still much better suited to surrogate for our pups than humans would be,” said Zoo Veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino. “This is a positive for both Lilly’s offspring and the African wild dogs, as they will benefit from initial socialization with a canine species.”
Working with a surrogate domestic dog is a new experience for the Oklahoma City Zoo’s animal care team, but a practice that has been used by other accredited zoos under the guidance of the African Wild Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP), of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Both ‘Xena’, and the pups father, ‘Juma’, arrived at the Zoo in 2013, as part of a breeding recommendation made by the African Wild Dog SSP. Xena came from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While Juma hails from the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, Kansas.
More great pics, and info, below the fold!
African Wild Dogs, also known as painted dogs, are critically endangered. Research suggests there are between 3,000 to 5,000 free-ranging Wild Dogs found in isolated populations in central, northeast, and southern Africa, where the largest population is found. Major threats to the species are habitat fragmentation; contact with human activity resulting in road casualties, poisoning, or snaring; the spread of distemper from domestic dogs; and competition for prey by larger carnivores.
African Wild Dogs are known for their unique coat markings of yellow, black, brown, white and tan. They have large round ears, highly specialized shearing teeth and only four toes on their feet. Wild Dogs can grow to stand 30 inches tall at the shoulders and weigh up to 80 pounds. Normal gestation for African Wild Dogs is 69-72 days.