The Animal Facts Editorial Team
February 23, 2023 8:30 pm
Whipsnade Zoo, Whipsnade, United Kingdom
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo have welcomed the arrival of three male African wild dogs who will form a pack with two resident females in hopes that they will welcome babies as part of the breeding project for this species.
The trio known as Earl, Elvis and Einstein, arrived at the UK’s largest zoo from West Midlands Safari Park on Wednesday 1 February. They have spent the last few weeks getting to know sisters Beebee and Ginger.
Their cross country adventure mimics the methods African wild dogs use in Africa to ensure their pack is genetically diverse. Zookeeper Sarah McGregor explained “In the wild, African wild dogs might have to travel more than 1,000km in the wild to find a mate with different genes to theirs, and Elvis, Earl and Einstein’s arrival means we will have a similarly healthy and genetically diverse pack at Whipsnade – vital to our work protecting the species
Since their arrival the pack have been busy getting to know one another, “Earl, Elvis and Einstein have been settling in well and it’s clear they all have very distinct personalities; Einstein has already bonded with Beebee, Earl is at his happiest exploring, and has been intrigued by all the new sights and smells, while Elvis is quiet and gentle and loves to laze around in the spring sunshine.”
African wild dogs form packs with a strict hierarchy as Sarah explained, “Whoever becomes the alpha male and female will be the only ones in the pack to have pups,” explains Sarah. “The other dogs will have a different but no less important role; caring for the pups and providing support when they’re born. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed it won’t be long!”
This species is also known as the African painted dog owing to their distinctive mottled coats which look like several paint tins have been tipped over them. “Each of the dogs have very distinctive dark, tri-coloured coats which help them to camouflage from prey, while their large, rounded ears help them to hear even the most minute sound,” she said.
These animals are endangered in Africa with as few as 700 individuals remaining. ZSL, the international science-driven conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo have linked rising temperatures to their decline. Any pups born through the breeding program at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will be vital to saving the species.
ZSL also support the survival of this species in the wild as Sarah explained, ZSL conservationists are working from Senegal to South Africa to help bring the wild dog population back from the brink by vaccinating domestic dogs in Africa against rabies and ensuring the healthy co-existence of African wild dogs and people.”
African wild dogs are among the most efficient predators. By working together as a pack as many as 80% of hunts they undertake will end in success. By comparison lion hunts end with a kill just 30% of the time.
Image: © ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
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