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!
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.