The Chicago Zoological Society (C.Z.S.) announced on Friday, January 31, A.D. 2020 the birth of seven African painted dog pups at Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois on Monday, January 13, A.D. 2020. This is the first litter of pups for mother Ngala (pronounced “En-gala”). Currently, the puppies are behind the scenes bonding with Ngala. They will have access to their outdoor habitat in the mid-spring.
“In early March, the puppies will receive their first round of inoculations,” the C.Z.S. stated. “At that time veterinary staff will also perform neo-natal exams and determine the sex [of] each puppy.”
The breeding of the alpha male and alpha female was at the recommendation of the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan (S.S.P.), which the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (A.Z.A.) administers. This and other S.S.P.s are programs under which accredited zoos and aquariums in North America make a cooperative effort for the management and conservation of an animal species. Currently, there are more than 200 African painted dogs in thirty-eight North American zoos accredited by the A.Z.A. The Brookfield Zoo is one of eight zoos to receive a breeding recommendation under the African Painted Dog S.S.P. for this year.
“The births are a welcomed addition to Brookfield Zoo,” stated Joan Daniels, Curator of Mammals for the C.Z.S. “We hope when the puppies can be seen this spring, guests will become inspired to learn more about painted dogs and the plight their counterparts face in Africa.”
African painted dogs gave disappeared from much of their former range in sub-Saharan Africa, which makes them one of the continent’s most endangered predators. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.), the largest populations to found in the wild are in southern Africa (northern Botswana, western Zimbabwe, eastern Namibia, and western Zambia) and the southern part of East Africa (Tanzania and Mozambique). The number of African painted dogs in the wild continues to decline, primarily due to the fragmentation of their old natural habitat, conflict with human activities, and the outbreak of infectious diseases.
The scientific name for the African painted dog is Lycaon pictus. It is derived from lýcos (the Greek word for wolf) and pictus (the Latin word for painted).
African painted dogs are true wild dogs. Theirs is a canid species that is not closely related to domesticated dogs and nor have there been attempts to domesticate them. Unlike other species of canid, which have five toes on their forepaws, African painted dogs have four toes on their forepaws.
“It is the only canid species to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs,” the C.Z.S. explained. “They have long legs and a lanky body, which gives the dogs both speed and endurance. Their large, rounded ears provide them with excellent hearing and help keep the dogs cool in warm climates.”
African painted dogs are medium-sized compared to wolves and large domesticated dogs, as they weigh between forty and seventy-five pounds. At birth, a pup has a coat of black-and-white fur. At about a month old, the pup’s coloring changes to black, tan dark brown, and white. As with a human fingerprint, each African painted dog’s coat of fur has a unique color pattern, so (at least theoretically) no two African painted dogs have the same pattern.
African painted dogs live in packs like wolves and an African painted dog pack has the same or similar social structure to that of a wolf pack. A dominant male we call the alpha male and a dominant female we call the alpha female mate and reproduce, and the other members of the pack help raise pups and care for elderly or sickly members. The other pack members signal their submissive status with exaggerated postures and what the C.Z.S. called “vocal greeting ceremonies.”
Pups are weaned when they are around ten weeks old, although they start to accept (regurgitated) food from adults before that point. These pups will stay in the den for about three months. Then they begin to run with the pack. By the time a puppy is around one year old, he or she will be a proficient hunter. An African painted dog reaches sexual maturity by the time he or she is eighteen months old.
You can support the African painted dog pack at Brookfield Zoo by “adopting” them. Click here to learn more.
Credit: Brookfield Zoo Caption: The public can see a video loop of the puppies via the social media of the C.Z.S. and Brookfield Zoo and the C.Z.S.’s Website at www.CZS.org/PaintedDogPups.
The Chicago Zoological Society operates the Brookfield Zoo on property that belongs to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. The North Gate Main Entrance address is 8400 West 31st Street, Brookfield, Illinois 60513. The South Gate Main Entrance address is 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, Illinois 60513. The Hollywood (Zoo Stop) on Metra’s B.N.S.F. line is a few blocks to the south of the South Gate entrance. The Website is www.czs.org/Brookfield-ZOO/Home.
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 In Greek mythology, King Lycaon of Arcadia killed his own son, Nyctimus, roasted his flesh, and served it under the guise of being meat to Zeus, King of the Olympian Gods, to test his wisdom. Horrified, Zeus restored Nyctimus to life and turned Lycaon into a wolf. Fans of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels will recognize this myth as the basis for his story about the “Rat Cook.”
 Compare this to the zebra. In the early 20th Century, there were attempts to domesticate the zebra, but they failed.