Photos by Graham S. Jones, Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

A litter of six endangered painted dog puppies born at The Wilds in December 2016 have begun making their public debuts — After weeks of being cared for exclusively by their mother and the other pack members, the pups have begun exploring the publicly visible areas of The Wilds property.

“The Wilds has managed painted dogs for years, but this is our first successful litter,” said Dan Beetem, director of animal management at The Wilds. “Even though we assembled a new pack last year in order to provide the younger dogs with the greatest opportunity to breed, we remained cautiously optimistic. Young mothers are often not successful with their first, or even second, litter. But Quinn, a first-time mom, surprised us by being an attentive caregiver from the start.”

Painted dogs, also known as African wild dogs, are one of Africa’s most endangered species. These dogs have disappeared from much of their former range throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and their populations are continuing to decline; researchers estimate that only about 6,600 painted dogs are left in their native regions. Challenges with humans are the main threats to their survival, and the painted dog populations have declined due to continued habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and infectious disease, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Operated by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and located in Cumberland, Ohio, The Wilds – one of the country’s largest conservation centers – is helping to protect this species’ future by participating in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program, which is coordinated to increase genetic diversity and population sustainability of threatened and endangered species in managed care.

“At The Wilds, we are in a unique position to preserve some of the planet’s most amazing and most endangered animals,” The Wilds Vice President Rick Dietz said. “We are overjoyed and honored to welcome a new generation of African painted dogs, which could easily go extinct in our lifetimes if we don’t cooperate to save these animals.”  

The pups’ mom, Quinn, came to The Wilds with her sister, Selina, in the spring of 2016. The sisters were both born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in 2015. The pups’ father, Onyx, age 7, was born at the Honolulu Zoo. The pack assembly was in accordance to a recommendation by the SSP.

Quinn’s pups, four females and two males born Dec. 16, 2016, received their first health examinations on Monday. Prior to this time, The Wilds’ animal care team had been observing Quinn’s behavior remotely through a camera mounted in the dogs’ den. Because Quinn and the other dogs were providing the pups with good care, staff did not disturb her during this important initial rearing opportunity. Now at about 8 weeks old, the pups have been exploring beyond the den.  

The Wilds plans to provide opportunities for visitors to meet the whole pack at the Carnivore Center this summer. In the meantime, guests on the Winter at The Wilds Tours may be able to catch a glimpse of the pups. 

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