Carnivore keepers at Edinburgh Zoo today announced the birth of the Zoo’s first ever African hunting dog. The announcement coincides with the reopening of the hunting dog walkway, which keepers had closed to visitors in August as they suspected Jet, the pack’s non-dominant female, was pregnant.
With less than 5,500 hunting dogs (Lycaon pictus) left in the wild, the birth of this puppy is an immense achievement for Edinburgh Zoo. Habitat fragmentation is one of the biggest factors in the hunting dogs’ decline, as the packs need a large range in order to remain sustainable. Hunting dogs are also heavily persecuted by farmers, despite rarely attacking livestock. Education and conservation breeding programmes such as the one Edinburgh Zoo is part of remain crucial to saving this species from extinction. The African hunting dog’s status in the wild is regarded as Endangered according the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
McGarry said: “Although we don’t know its sex yet, this pup is proving to be a real bundle of attitude. It’s very bold for such a young age and we’ve often spotted it tugging along joints of meat that are twice its size. All of the dogs have been seen feeding it and it looks like an established member of the pack.”
And McGarry continues: “Most first-time mothers can be very nervous, so we decided to close the enclosure to visitors in order to give Jet and her pup the best chance of a successful birth. Hunting dogs have a very intricate social hierarchy and if they feel threatened this can cause the mother to reject her pups.”
In two weeks’ time, the puppy will be caught up for its first health check and to be sexed. As hunting dog puppies are born black and white and only start to get their mottled markings from when they are two months old, the keepers will only name the feisty little pup once its colours have come through.
Although Edinburgh Zoo’s pack has two males, Blade and Two Socks, only Blade the dominant male will breed with the pack’s females. Usually, the dominant female will be the one to have pups but it is not uncommon for lower-ranking females to also give birth. The Zoo’s keepers are confident this pup will be the first of many for their pack.
(Source: Edinburgh Zoo press release, 23.10.2013)