Need a stress reliever? ZooTampa at Lowry Park is celebrating the births of seven rare African painted dogs, and they are awfully cute.
The multi-colored pups are the first of this endangered African species to be born at the Tampa zoo. They also are the first born to mother Layla and father Hatari, who both arrived at the zoo earlier this year as part of a collaborative species conservation program.
Also called African wild dogs, the species is native to sub-Saharan Africa. The global population is less than 6,600 and still declining due to human conflict, habitat fragmentation and diseases such as rabies and distemper.
"We are one of only a few zoos playing a leading role in the work to save the charismatic African painted dog. The birth of these pups is a significant step in helping save the population that is under severe threat," said Dr. Larry Killmar, senior vice president and chief zoological officer at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. "When we welcomed Layla and Hatari to our zoo, our hope was for a healthy litter that will be part of AZA’s African Wild Dog Species Survival Plan designed to help to save this important species."
The pups will stay close to their mother for the next three to four weeks before leaving their den. As they get bigger and more independent, visitors can watch them grow up at the zoo.
The painted dogs’ name refers to its distinctive multi-colored fur. Each animal’s coat is patterned differently. When traveling together, their coloration confuses prey by making the pack seem larger than it actually is. The dogs have large round ears and only four toes.
Working cooperatively, the dogs hunt in packs of six to 20. The zoo occasionally hosts carcass feeds to demonstrate their unique hunting behavior, a zoo news release said.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.