Category — Africa exhibit
Co-written by Dana Burke & Shasta Bray
Here at the Zoo
It’s been six months since our African painted dog boys made their way south, and they are doing great. They especially love watching all of the different hoof stock they get to see while on exhibit. Their keepers tell me they really enjoy watching the waterbuck, but I digress.
Imara and the girls, who are now 15 months old, have been doing well as an all girl group. Imara still tends to let them rule themselves, but will step in if she feels it is necessary. There have been some rumblings among the ranks within the juveniles (as you would expect with all females), but nothing major. Selina is still the alpha with Quinn as her second. These two have been the top two dogs since the females developed their hierarchy when they were very young. Next is Ivy and Lucy follows as the bottom dog.
The plan to move three of the juveniles is finally moving forward. As per the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan, Selina and Quinn will be transported to the Wilds in Columbus. It is our hope that Selina will breed with a male that they are getting from another zoo. Ivy will be shipped to Honolulu to breed with a male that they house. That leaves Lucy here with Imara.
The reasons why we are shipping which dogs where is a well thought out process that takes into account the status, relationships and personalities of the individuals. Since Selina and Quinn have been bonded for most of their lives, we feel that their best chance for success is to move them together. Quinn has the capability of being a great helper and babysitter if Selina produces a litter. Of course, moving the dogs to a new facility could cause change between the sisters, but with Selina being a true alpha, we expect her to retain her status. Quinn has never really challenged her and moving to a new space will most likely result in her looking to Selina for guidance. All of these factors should lead to a smooth introduction to the male in a best case scenario.
We chose to move Ivy as a single dog because of her personality as well. In the last few months, Ivy has become a more confident dog. That being said, with her increase in confidence, she has also become more of a trouble maker and has challenged all of her sisters at some point. Ivy likes to stir the pot so to speak. Again, because of these traits, we feel that she would make a great alpha all on her own with a single male.
That leaves Imara and Lucy here in Cincinnati. Imara, who did a beautiful job raising the 10 pups we had in January last year, is not the most confident when it comes to being alpha. Lucy on the other hand, even though she is the bottom dog at this point, has the potential to be a pretty good alpha herself. Truth be told, Lucy is a bit of a wild card.
Within the next couple months, we will be receiving two male dogs. They will be quarantined and then we will set up for introductions. This is where things can get tricky. An introduction with two males and two females is one of the more challenging scenarios you can encounter with this species; however, the pay-off is a truly social pack that reflects those in the wild. Still, this is where things can get tricky. The keepers and animal manager will plan out each step of the process in order to set up the dogs for ultimate success. There will most likely be some fighting, whether it’s between the males or the females or each other, is impossible to guess. There’s even a chance that Lucy could end up alpha over Imara. Genetically, she is technically more valuable than her mother due to being Brahma’s offspring so we are fine with any outcome.
We collected information about the males from their current keepers, but it will be very important to observe them while in quarantine to confirm their hierarchy with each other. The introductions themselves will be done inside the building and once started will be complete in just a few hours. It may take them minutes or days to settle their social structure, but once they do, only the alphas will breed and produce pups. We have a lot of changes coming and are all really excited for what the future holds for this species. We will be sure to keep everyone updated on what is happening and how things are progressing.
Across the Globe in Tanzania
We may be wrapping up with our April showers here in Cincinnati, but they were nothing like the rains that El Nino dumped on our field partners with the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) over the past few months. Flooding of the Ruaha River caused all kinds of transportation problems.
The good thing about using remote-triggered cameras to monitor wildlife in the region is that the cameras continue to take pictures even when you have trouble reaching them. Fortunately, only a few of the cameras floated away during the heavy flooding.
RCP works to secure a future for large carnivores such as African painted dogs, lions and hyenas in and around Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. This region is home to the third largest population of painted dogs in Africa. Check out RCP’s latest update from the field to learn more.
May 4, 2016 2 Comments
If you’ve been to the Zoo lately, most of you have seen that the painted dog puppies don’t really look like puppies anymore. The largest pup, Luke, weighs in at 66 lbs. The smallest is Lucy at 54 lbs. Imara is still slightly larger at 68 lbs, but the kids are not far behind. A couple more months and the puppies should be about done with their growth. At almost eight months old, they have their adult teeth in and their faces are starting to look more adult-like. The most adult-looking dog to me is Hugo. He has a bigger head and even though Luke weighs more, Hugo seems larger in stature.
In addition to growing like weeds, the puppies and their personalities are still evolving.
On one hand, you have Bruce and Riddler, who seem to enjoy interacting with the keepers, and on the other hand, you have Alfred and Luke, who are a little shy and take some time to warm up. In my opinion, Luke is the most like his father, Brahma, in personality. He is a pretty reserved dog, very vigilant and observant. He is usually the one to sound an alarm call. Lucy and Riddler appear to enjoy hanging out solo on occasion, while everybody else likes to be on top of each other. The hierarchy is also still developing, but for now, Oswald is displaying traits of an alpha. Selina, sometimes with the help of Quinn, is the top female. This will probably change and depending on how the pack continues to develop, it could happen at any time. However, for the time being, Imara is still in charge, although her interference with the puppies has lessened. They are at the point where they need to work things out themselves. It is the way of the pack.
In the middle of July, we fed the pack their first carcass while on exhibit. Imara and the pups received a 70-lb processed (no head or guts) goat carcass. They had a great time with it, and being able to observe all of the natural behaviors that go along with this style of feeding was fantastic! In the wild, the entire hunt and kill is the best way for the pack’s bonds to strengthen. In captivity, it doesn’t get more natural than a carcass. Behaviors were exhibited that I hadn’t seen before. The amount of cooperation and sharing between Imara and the pups was amazing. You can see these behaviors in videos of dogs in Africa, but rarely get to see them in captivity. The puppies would take turns breaking down the goat. It was like a revolving door of dogs; as one dog tired, another one would take its place. They had it picked clean in under two hours.
We still do not have an answer to the most popular question that I hear while chatting with our guests – will we keep all of the puppies, and if not, where will they go? It seems likely that all or some of the males will move to another facility. There is a good chance a couple of them will form new packs for breeding. It’s also possible that a couple of the females will move out as well. Since Brahma’s passing, the pack has had to be managed a little differently than if we had an alpha pair. I am happy to say that I have been accepted into the Painted Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP) management group and I hope to contribute to all of the aspects of managing this species in captivity. The SSP officially meets next month and more decisions will be made, including the possibility of getting an adult male to breed with Imara. So come on out and see Imara and the pups while they are all still here!
September 4, 2015 2 Comments
For more than 10 years, the Zoo has partnered with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly to lead graduate courses that take educators into the field to experience community-based conservation, participatory education and inquiry firsthand. This year, I had the fortunate opportunity to co-facilitate Earth Expeditions Kenya: People and Wildlife in Integrated Landscapes with Dave Jenike, the Zoo’s COO. We took 17 educators with us, including formal classroom teachers as well as informal educators from zoos and similar institutions. This is the fifth and final post in a series about our experience. Read the previous post in this blog series here.
Today was Community Day! Following a wrap-up of the ecological monitoring projects and our last group discussion on balancing human land use and conservation in the morning, the afternoon brought us a special treat. Students from various local schools were transported to Lale’enok Resource Centre for a cultural day. Other community members, including Maasai elders and members of the Women’s Group, came to partake in the festivities as well. The students presented on the theme of “Water is Life” in the form of traditional song, dance, poetry and debate. They even invited us to join them in some of the dancing.
I had prepared the Earth Expeditions group that they might want to come up with a presentation of their own. In years past, groups ended up singing silly songs like the Hokey Pokey. This year, one of the students, Jen, brought the idea of doing the BioBlitz Dance. The Bioblitz Dance was originally created for National Geographic’s Bioblitz Event and is a celebration of the outdoors, human diversity and biodiversity, and national parks. I’m not sure it was any less silly than the Hokey Pokey, but at least it had a connection to people and wildlife. The best thing it did was break down barriers between the local community and our students, make everyone laugh and smile, and allowed us to do something in return.
Later that afternoon once the students had departed, we had the chance to mingle and have small group conversations with the community members. No topic was off limits, and they were just as curious about us and our culture as we were about theirs. We talked about marriage, family and more. Everyone was so open and friendly.
Soon, we all moved to the campfire for a traditional Maasai dinner featuring fire-roasted goat. There was much more conversation, singing, dancing and star gazing before heading to our tents for the night.
Our last full day in the South Rift began with an early morning walk just after sunrise to a ravine overlooking the river. We walked down to the riverbank and spent some time hanging out and reflecting on all the wonderful experiences we’d had so far. On the way back, a lone hyena burst out of the bush just ahead of us and booked it across the dirt road. Amazing!
We finished up the last of our coursework with a discussion about what the students planned to do for their Inquiry Action Projects once we returned home and how it fit into their Master Plans for those in the graduate program.
Then it was time to shop! Another way we can support the community and their conservation efforts is to support their livelihoods. As a group, we had the chance to purchase a variety of hand-crafted jewelry, belts, shukas (colorful cloths) and more directly from the women who made them.
At the Zoo, we have created a Lions and Livelihoods Bracelets program. More than 200 local Maasai women showed up to sell us bracelets made in a particular design to symbolize the coexistence of people and wildlife. Each color represents an integral component: red stands for lions, black for the Maasai people, blue for peace and white for clarity. Guests can then purchase these bracelets back at the Zoo. Revenue goes back to the Olkirimatian Women’s Group to provide tuition for local school girls and contribute to the operation of the Lale’enok Resource Centre.
We spent our last evening having a sundowner with the Lale’enok staff on top of a hill overlooking the South Rift and Mount Shompole. There were plenty of laughs, hugs and pictures as we said our farewells. It was a fantastic, life-changing expedition that no one will soon forget.
August 27, 2015 No Comments