The biggest Bush Dog litter ever born at Chester Zoo has emerged from its den.
The six pups, born to mother Mana, age 7, and dad Franco, age 4, have made their public debuts after spending their first few weeks of life tucked away in their underground burrows.
Keepers believe the first of the sextuplets arrived on May 13, which is when they first heard tiny cries coming from the dens as they performed their morning rounds.
The litter, which is above the average size for Bush Dogs and is made up of two boys and four girls, is the largest to be born at the zoo.
Now, the youngsters have come out to play and have begun exploring the outside world under the watchful eye of their parents.
Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said, “Mana is doing a wonderful job of caring for her new pups but with it being her biggest litter ever, she’s certainly got her paws full. We’ve seen fairly big litters of four or five pups born in the past, but never have we had a litter of six.
The zoo’s Bush Dog pack now contains 16 individuals. In the next few weeks, the newest pups will be weighed and sexed by the care team.
Bush Dogs belong to the canine family and live in small isolated populations in the wet forests and grasslands of Central and South America. They have evolved over thousands of years to have a web of skin between their toes, which makes them excellent swimmers.
Sightings of Bush Dogs in the wild are becoming increasingly rare with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listing the species as Near Threatened. Their wild numbers have dropped by more than 25% in just 12 years. This decline is caused by destruction of natural areas for farms and other human developments, poaching for their meat, and diseases contracted from domestic dogs.
Chester Zoo has supported partners in Misiones, Argentina, where conservationists helped to create a biological corridor of habitat for a range of carnivorous species to help improve the movement between different areas of fragmented forest.
See more photos of the sextuplets below.