ZooTampa at Lowry Park has been celebrating the births of seven rare African Painted Dog pups. The multi-colored pups are the first of this endangered African species to be born at the Zoo. They also are the first pups born to the parents, Layla and Hatari, who both arrived at the Zoo earlier this year as part of a collaborative species conservation program.
Also called African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus), the species is native to sub-Saharan Africa. They are currently classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN. The global population is currently less than 6,600 and still declining due to human conflict, habitat fragmentation and widespread diseases such as rabies and distemper.
“We are one of only a few zoos playing as leading role in the work to save the charismatic African Painted Dog. The birth of these pups is a significant step in helping save the population that is under severe threat,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, senior vice president and chief zoological officer at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. “When we welcomed Layla and Hatari to our zoo, our hope was for a healthy litter that will be part of AZA’s African Wild Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP) designed to help to save this important species.”
The pups will stay close to their mother for the next three to four weeks before leaving their den. As the colorful pups get bigger and more independent, visitors can watch them grow up at the zoo and learn about what the ZooTampa is doing for this and other endangered animal species.
The Painted Dogs’ name refers to its distinctive, multi-colored fur. Each animal’s coat is patterned differently. When traveling together, their coloration confuses prey by making the pack seem larger than it actually is. The dogs have large round ears and only four - rather than five - toes. Working cooperatively, the dogs hunt in packs of six to 20. The Zoo occasionally hosts carcass feeds to demonstrate their unique hunting behavior.
ZooTampa at Lowry Park is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of which are endangered species facing serious threats in the wild and is one of only a few zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) with African Painted Dogs.