Two litters of bush dog pups, born at Chester Zoo, have begun to venture outside for the first time.
The first litter, consisting of five pups, was discovered on August 11 after keepers heard tiny squeals coming from their den.
A second set then arrived just over a month later (September 16) but, with a possibility that some pups may still be tucked up in underground burrows, keepers are yet to determine exactly how many make up litter number two.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed the species as near threatened with extinction after their wild number dropped by more than 25% in just 12 years.
Chester Zoo has supported partners in Misiones, Argentina, where conservationists have helped establish a biological corridor of habitat for a range of different carnivorous species to improve the movement between different areas of the forests.
Team manager of carnivores at the zoo, Dave Hall, said: “We’re really excited by the arrival of the pups and they all seem to have settled in well to the pack.
“These pups will certainly play an important role in helping us find out more about this mysterious and often overlooked species.
“The two litters arrived to mums Japura and Mana within only weeks of each other, which was previously thought to be a very rare occurrence.
“So far, we’ve counted five pups in the first litter while the second litter is yet to fully emerge, but once they have the confidence to leave their den and explore the outside world we will do their first health check."
Bush dogs often hunt in packs to chase down vermin, lizards and birds and have been known to hunt animals nearly twice their size.
The species belongs to the canine family and live in small isolated populations in the wet forests and grasslands of Central and South America. Bush dogs have evolved over thousands of years to have a web of skin between their toes, which makes them excellent swimmers.