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Category — Painted dogs

Dog Log: Chapter 9 – Updates from Cincinnati and Tanzania

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.

Selina (Photo: Dana Burke)

Selina (Photo: Dana Burke)

Quinn (Photo: Dana Burke)

Quinn (Photo: Dana Burke)

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.

Ivy (Photo: Dana Burke)

Ivy (Photo: Dana Burke)

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.

Lucy (Photo: Dana Burke)

Lucy (Photo: Dana Burke)

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 Ruaha River overflowed its banks and made travel dangerous in the region. (Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project)

The Ruaha River overflowed its banks and made travel dangerous in the region. (Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project)

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.

Painted dogs caught on camera (Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project)

Painted dogs caught on camera (Photo: Ruaha Carnivore Project)

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

Dog Log: Chapter 8 – A Whole New World for the Boys

Luke in crate.

Luke during crate training.

As some of you may have noticed on your recent visit to the zoo, the male painted dog puppies are no longer here. On November 11, our six males, Oswald, Riddler, Alfred, Luke, Hugo and Bruce, were moved to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. This move was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Typically, when you have a stable alpha pair, painted dogs stay in their family pack until they are two years old so that they can see another litter raised and learn how to be great parents or helpers in the future. Unfortunately, with the passing of our alpha male, we had to make this move before our juvenile males reached breeding age.  In their new home, the boys will be rotated with spotted hyena and viewable to visitors throughout park operating hours.

To prepare for a move like this can take weeks or months of training. The dogs have to be taught to break from their natural inclination to stay together as a pack and enter crates individually. Getting them comfortable being separate and being in a smaller space takes a lot of work and patience. The first step is to just let them see the crate, touch it, smell it and let them have access to it with both ends open so they can explore in and around it. Next, we would place the crate in a doorway that they have to walk through. Again, this just gets them used to going in and out of it. Once they are used to it as part of their holding, we put one door on the end so that we can ask them to come into it to get treats. Keepers secure the crate to the wall with the crate flush to the doorway, and then ask the dogs to come in to take snacks through the mesh in the crate door. It didn’t take long for the boys to be comfortable being in the crates. The younger dogs, especially those that have never traveled in a crate before, tend to do better since they have no prior knowledge of the experience. We only use their favorite snacks like beef heart and chunk meat to capture this behavior. Due to the time we were able to spend conditioning them, all 6 dogs were crated and loaded on the transport truck in 40 minutes on the day of their departure. The boys did such a great job!

The week before they were scheduled to go out, two keepers from Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park traveled to Cincinnati to meet the dogs and their keepers (including me). We discussed the complexity of their social structure, husbandry, personality traits and behaviors specific to the pack they would be escorting to Florida. The keepers, Melaina and Heather, also observed crate training sessions and familiarized themselves with how we get the dogs to take their monthly heart worm preventative.

After a 14-hour drive, the boys arrived safely and were unloaded into their new home. The 2 lovely Disney keepers let us know as soon as they got there and have been sending updates on them every couple of days since their arrival. Even though we were sad to see them go, we’re happy that these special animals will have the opportunity to inspire the millions of visitors that visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. With a much larger audience, it is my hope that Alfred, Oswald, Riddler, Luke, Hugo and Bruce will excite more people to care about this species and their plight in the wild. For the time being, Selina, Ivy, Lucy and Quinn will be coming into their own here in Cincinnati under the watchful eye of their mother, Imara.

The boys were introduced to their new environment earlier this week!  See how they’re doing in the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna.

The boys in their new exhibit.

The boys in their new exhibit.

December 9, 2015   1 Comment

Dreaming of Africa and a Future in the Wild for African Painted Dogs

The pups are out! The pups are out! It’s been a long time waiting for the weather to break so the African painted dog pups could come outside. For the past few months, only their keepers were allowed to access the holding area. As soon as the rest of us employees heard the pups were finally out, many of us made a beeline for the exhibit like giddy schoolchildren on a field trip!

"What are you doing down there, Mom?" (Photo: DJJAM)

“What are you doing down there, Mom?” (Photo: DJJAM)

As I sat and marveled at the antics of our 10 boisterous, playful pups exploring their outdoor yard for the first time, my thoughts wandered to what it would be like to actually see painted dogs in the wild. I’ve been fortunate to travel to Africa a few times—once to lead an Earth Expeditions course in Namibia, another time to lead a course in Kenya, and also to pick up my daughter whom we adopted from Ethiopia. Each time, I experienced amazing landscapes and wildlife from hippos to rhinos to lions, but never did I encounter painted dogs. This isn’t surprising considering the African painted dog is one of the most endangered carnivores in Africa.

If I were to travel to Africa with the goal of seeing painted dogs, Ruaha National Park and the region surrounding it in Tanzania would be the place to go. Not only does the third largest population of painted dogs live there, it’s also the home base of the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP), a conservation program that the Zoo supports.  RCP works with local communities to ensure the survival of carnivores and people in the region.

Ruaha landscape (Photo: Marcus Adames)

Ruaha landscape (Photo: Marcus Adames)

As it happened, the same day the pups first went out on exhibit, we also had a visit from RCP’s Director, Amy Dickman, who updated us on the latest news on the project. Amy is phenomenal and a very charismatic and inspiring leader, so much so that she was one of three international finalists for the prestigious Tusk Conservation Award last fall. This award recognizes individuals who have undertaken outstanding, inspirational conservation work throughout Africa. Although Amy did not win the award (this time), she did get to have afternoon tea with Prince William and it generated a lot of attention for the project, including this fabulous short film.

Amy Dickman and her team meets with the Barabaig tribe

Amy Dickman and her team meets with the Barabaig tribe

As mentioned in the film, Amy has done a fantastic job winning the trust and participation of the local Barabaig people. It used to be one of the few ways to gain status and wealth in the tribe was to kill lions, but that’s changing. RCP has found a way to provide tangible benefits of protecting carnivores to the community. RCP provides education scholarships and materials, veterinary supplies and health care clinics, and those villages that can show they have the most wildlife in their area receive the greater rewards.

How exactly do they determine which areas have the most wildlife? It’s ingenious, really. RCP has started giving villagers their own camera traps and training them how to set up and manage them. For each predator or prey species captured on camera, they receive a certain number of points – 2,000 points for an eland, 3,000 for a hyena, 4,000 for a lion, 5,000 for a painted dog, and so on. And if the picture has a whole pack of painted dogs in it like the one below, they get 5,000 points for each individual dog!

African painted dogs in Ruaha

African painted dogs in Ruaha

Villagers are now more motivated to find ways to coexist with carnivores. Instead of killing carnivores to keep them from attacking their livestock, for example, they are building better bomas, or corrals, and using guard dogs to prevent depredation.

Puppies that will grow into great big guard dogs

Puppies that will grow into great big guard dogs

In just five years, Amy’s work has resulted in a 60% decline in livestock depredation, a significant rise in people recognizing benefits from wildlife, and most importantly, an 80% decline in carnivore killing. Amazing! As RCP looks to the future, I hope the Zoo continues and strengthens its relationship with the project.

As for me, I may never see African painted dogs roaming the African savannah (though I’m not giving up hope), but knowing that we support great programs like RCP makes me optimistic about their future in the wild. For now, I am content to watch our pups trip over their paws and grow into their giant ears here at the Zoo. I hope you will join me!

"My ears are bigger than yours!" (Photo: DJJAM)

“My ears are bigger than yours!” (Photo: DJJAM)

p.s. The Zoo sponsors one of RCP’s field cameras. In return, RCP posts images taken by our Cincinnati Zoo Cam on a dedicated Facebook page; like the page to follow along!

 

April 20, 2015   2 Comments