Good Zoo staff announced that highly endangered African Wild Dog pups born at the Good Zoo are now on exhibit. The female “Destiny” gave birth on September 30, 2012 to seven pups; it is the first litter she or her mate “Selous” have produced.
“All the pups were full term, but below normal birth weight, and were born with infections that affected their lungs and other organs,” said Good Zoo Manager Mindi White. “One pup was stillborn due to undeveloped lungs. The remaining pups were pulled for hand-rearing but four pups succumbed to the infection.” White said the remaining two pups were too weak to nurse from Destiny, so zoo staff located a lactating domestic dog from the Hancock County Animal Shelter and nursed the pups for several days until she stopped producing milk. Keepers took the pups back to the parents every day and let them see, hear and smell the pups through the fence to let them know the pups were still alive.
When the pups were stronger and healthier and the parents were still showing strong parental behaviors, the pups were put back with the parents. The pups still did not nurse adequately from Destiny, so animal care staff took the pups home every night for late night and 2:00 a.m. feedings. The pups were put back with the wild dog parents during the day. “This is the first time nursing wild dog pups have been hand-reared by zoo staff, yet kept with the parents during the day,“ said Penny Miller, zoo director. If the pups had been only hand raised, they imprint on people and do not learn correct wild dog behaviors. “This would have made it impossible to integrate them back into African Wild Dog conservation program, which is the whole point of our breeding efforts,” Miller added.
“These pups were born very compromised. It is a miracle two survived, and it is a testimony to the incredible problem solving and tender loving care they received from our keepers and managers,” Miller said. The domestic dog that helped rear the pups was adopted by a Good Zoo keeper. African wild dogs are Africa’s second most endangered carnivores. Once found in 39 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, wild dogs are no longer found in 25 countries. Habitat destruction, rabies and canine distemper spread by local village dogs, and other pressures threaten their survival. Only the dominant female dog in the pack produces pups, litters can be as large as 20 pups. Other females assist the mother in rearing the pups and catching wild game. It takes a large healthy pack of wild dogs to hunt enough game to feed large litters; many wild packs are now too small to rear large litters. Pup mortality in the wild is 90%. There are 125 African wild dogs exhibited in 37 U.S. zoos; approximately 3,500-5,000 remain in the wild.
The zoo is currently open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission to the Good Zoo is $9.00 for adults; $5.75 for children ages 3-12; and Good Zoo members and ages 2 and under are admitted free. Lorikeet Landing and the train ride are open Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, weather permitting. The train ride is $2.25 per person and a cup of nectar to feed to the lorikeets is $1.00. Additional information can be found on the on the Good Zoo website including the new Dinosaur Exhibit featuring life-sized, moving and roaring dinosaurs.