ZSL London Zoo’s African hunting dog (Lycaon pictus) pack has more than trebled in size, with the arrival of eleven puppies.
The large litter, born to mum Branca and fathered by male Kruger, are the first to be born at ZSL London Zoo in almost 80 years.
Hidden away by mum in their dens for almost ten weeks, the huge brood had their first health checks recently, where keepers were able to determine their genders, weigh and vaccinate each pup and take photos to help identify each of them individually.
Carrying out the medical in the pups’ den to ensure they stayed relaxed, the veterinary team and zookeepers formed a speedy production line to sex the pups and give them their vaccinations as quickly as possible.
Zookeeper Gerald Asher said: “The arrival of the African hunting dog pups at ZSL London Zoo is a real cause for celebration, as their species is classed as endangered in the wild.
“While Branca got used to looking after her new arrivals, we monitored the infants and mum through a remote camera-trap - just like those we use to monitor these dogs in the wild.
“Vaccinations and health checks complete, we can reveal that the six males and five female pups all weigh in at a very healthy three to five kilos. Having taken pictures of their faces, they’ve all got unique markings which can be used to tell them apart. They are all different shades of black to white with white tips to their tails.”
Facing threats in the wild from habitat loss and conflict with humans, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) which runs ZSL London Zoo, works throughout Africa to help protect the species through its Range Wide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dogs. In Kenya, ZSL’s research is developing ways to help African hunting dogs and people to share the landscape.
ZSL’s Senior Research Fellow and coordinator of the African Wild Dog Working Group, Rosie Woodroffe said: “African hunting dogs are one of the world's most endangered carnivores, with just 700 wild packs thought to remain. It's exciting that people in the UK will have a chance to see these gorgeous pups, and to learn about the plight of their wild cousins.”
The striking canines were highlighted recently on BBC One’s wildlife series The Hunt, and are often regarded as fearsome predators. However, they form a powerful bond within their packs and although only the alpha female and alpha male will breed, all the other pack-members help to care for and feed the precious young.
Pay a visit to ZSL London Zoo’s African hunting dogs now, and book online for fast entry at www.zsl.org.