The news from Denver Zoo is that everyone is “going wild” over four endangered African Wild Dog puppies born there on November 20, 2017. For the past three months, the puppies have been behind the scenes in their private maternity den under the protective care of their mother, Tilly.
Keepers say the three males (Nigel, Theodore Roosevelt, and Livingstone) and one female (Cholula) are healthy, curious and playful, and ready for their public debut. Guests will now have a chance to see the puppies every day from Noon till 2 p.m. in the Pahali Ya Mwana yard in Benson Predator Ridge, through the end of the month of February. Starting March 1, they will then be in various habitats throughout Benson Predator Ridge, depending on the weather.
This is the first litter for Tilly, who was born in September 2012 at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and arrived at Denver Zoo in January 2014. Her mother was born at Denver Zoo to the zoo's original alpha pair, Daisy and Judd.
The father of the new pups, Jesse, was born in January 2011 at Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and arrived at Denver Zoo in January 2015. All three adult dogs at the Denver Zoo—Tilly, Jesse and Cheza—arrived under the recommendation of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals.
With a worldwide population estimated at 6,600, African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus), also known as African Painted dogs, are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and infectious disease are the main threats to their survival in the wild.
Denver Zoo is a leader in the management of African Wild Dogs within the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), and has successfully produced 32 puppies since 2001. Additionally, Denver Zoo helps protect African Wild Dogs in Botswana by tracking them with radio and GPS collars to reduce conflicts with humans and promote coexistence between people and animals, and has been significantly involved in research aimed at improving the management and sustainability of the species, including genetic, reproductive, and behavioral studies.
African Wild Dogs are native to the open woodlands and plains of sub-Saharan Africa. Full-grown adults weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and stand 30 inches tall at the shoulder. Unique characteristics of these slim, long-legged dogs include: distinct yellow, black, brown and white markings, large round ears that contribute to their sharp sense of hearing, and front paws that have only four toes, rather than the typical five found on other canine species.