Zoo Miami has announced the debut of a litter of highly endangered African Painted Dog puppies.
The litter of one male and two females was born on Dec. 31 and has been in seclusion in a den with their mother since then. This is the second litter for the 3-year-old mother named “Little Foot.”
Little Foot arrived at Zoo Miami in 2017 from the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans where she was born in September 2016. The father, whose name is “Evander,” was born at the Perth Zoo in Australia in May 2011 and arrived at Zoo Miami in November 2015 via Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Until now, mother and puppies have been observed through a closed circuit television camera. After it was felt that the mom was doing an excellent job of caring for her puppies, the decision was made to do the neonatal exams on each of them. This was the first time that anyone had been able to handle the puppies to perform a variety of procedures including collecting blood, general physical exams, deworming treatment, and the placement of a microchip for identification. Following the exams, the puppies were given access to the exhibit for the first time and have sporadically ventured on and off. As the litter becomes more familiar with the exhibit, they will likely spend more and more time on it.
With less than 6,000 individuals left in the wild, the African Painted Dog is one of the most endangered carnivores on the continent. Found in isolated pockets of Eastern and Southern Africa, they occur in packs that can range from 6 to over 20 individuals. They are cooperative hunters which experience one of the highest success rates of any of the major carnivores. Only the alpha pair reproduce within the pack and the female can have as many as 20 puppies which are all raised cooperatively by the other pack members.
As cooperative hunters, they are able to take down prey much larger than themselves such as wildebeests and other large antelope. Other prey species include warthogs and smaller antelope.
The largest threats to the African painted dogs are being shot by land owners who consider them a threat to their livestock, fragmented habitat, and disease transmission such as rabies and distemper that is introduced by domestic dogs.