Seven endangered African painted dog pups have made their first public appearances at Chester Zoo .
The playful pups scampered out of their underground den, led by new mum K’mana who had kept them safely tucked away since giving birth to them in November.
Also known as African wild dogs, it is the first time the endangered animals have ever been bred at the zoo.
Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, said:“After spending six-weeks deep inside their den under the watchful eyes of mum, the pups have now come out and they’ve most certainly come out to play!
“They are the first African wild dog pups to be born at Chester and all of the teams of keepers, conservationists and scientists here at the zoo are thrilled with how strong and healthy they are looking."
He added: “These rare pups are incredibly important new arrivals and a major boost to the international breeding programme which is working to try and ensure a brighter future for these impressive and beautiful animals.
“Watching the pack explore and play together is wonderful and we hope the pups will help us to bring some much needed attention to the species which is under huge pressure in the wild.”
African painted dogs are one of Africa’s most threatened carnivores and are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Conservation experts fear there may now be fewer than 1,500 breeding dogs left in isolated regions of eastern and southern Africa.
Mike Jordan, the zoo’s Collections Director, explained: “The African painted dog is one of the world’s most endangered carnivores and is facing a real battle for survival.
“With human populations increasing in Africa and villages expanding, painted dog numbers have plummeted as their habitat is converted to farmland. This puts them in direct conflict with local people, where they are hunted and poisoned for killing livestock and exposed to infectious diseases transferred from domestic dogs.
“Time is running out for them but, through our long-standing conservation support in Africa, we’re fighting to change this.”
For more than 10 years, Chester Zoo has been a vital part of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust African Wild Dog Programme in Tanzania, working to return healthy and genetically diverse populations of painted dogs back to the wild. Zoo experts have helped conservationists working in Africa to re-establish viable populations of painted dogs, bred in special protected breeding areas in Tanzania, in two national parks – Tsavo and Mkomazi.
The zoo’s Act for Wildlife conservation campaign is also raising vital funds to protect painted dogs from extinction in Africa.
Visit www.actforwildlife.org.uk for more information or to text AFRI03 £5 to 70070 to donate to the conservation charity’s campaign.