Category — 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
Annnnd…. they’re off!
Imara and Brahma certainly have their paws full now! The puppies are on the move and going on new adventures outside of the nest box for a couple minutes at a time. They have greater mobility at this point so they are much more active and coordinated. Their ears have unfurled and their eyes have opened and now they have places to go! The puppies seem to be well within the range for normal development.
Since the puppies are more mobile now, it’s interesting to see what Brahma and Imara do with all of the little ones waddling around. What is really cool to see, is that the pups put themselves away. When they are finished exploring or bugging mom and dad, it’s like a puppy parade back into the box.
The first time keepers observed them coming out of the box, Brahma seemed a little shell shocked. He seemed a little overwhelmed and didn’t look like he knew what to do. You would often find him standing guard between the two dens so that the puppies stayed in one area. Now that he has gotten the hang of it, he has been observed greeting and getting down for the pups. Meanwhile, Imara puts her face at their level, play bowing and greeting them. They swarm around her like little bees, crawling over one another to get to her. These interactions, between the parents and the puppies, are extremely important. The behaviors we have seen, like the play bow and the licking of muzzles, solidifies the bonding between all of the dogs. Painted Dogs are very social creatures and these relationships keep the pack unified and successful.
There are still many changes to come. In a week or so, their beautiful yellow color will appear, making them even more unique in their appearance. They will be able to consume regurgitated food from mom and dad and they will also start spending more time away from the box. The last couple of weeks have been really exciting to watch the puppies grow and play. As the pups reach these very critical milestones, we will keep you updated on their progress.
February 4, 2015 3 Comments
We are in the home stretch, putting the finishing touches on Phase IV of our ambitious Africa exhibit this week, which opens to the public on Saturday. Soon, the large savannah will be home to Thomson’s gazelles, impala and lesser kudu as well as ostrich, pink-backed pelicans and more. New exhibits include bat-eared foxes (future meerkat) and, of course, African painted dogs.
It’s been quite a few years since the Zoo has exhibited African painted dogs and we’re all very excited about their return. Our female is named Imara. She came to us from Oglebay’s Good Zoo. Our male is Haka and he came to us from the Brookfield Zoo. Both of them were born in 2012. Their exhibit is a large, beautiful grassy yard featuring trees, a creek and a rocky den. Guests will be able to view them up close through a large glass window on one end of the exhibit. At the other end, the viewing opportunity is open air.
African painted dogs are endangered in the wild with fewer than 6,000 remaining in central and southern Africa. The Zoo contributes to their conservation by supporting the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) in Tanzania. RCP works with local communities to ensure the survival of carnivores and people in and around Ruaha National Park. The Ruaha region is home to Africa’s third largest population of painted dogs and 10% of Africa’s lions.
RCP documents the presence and location of wildlife species through community-reported sightings and photos taken by motion-triggered cameras. Through the Ruaha Explorer’s Club, the Zoo sponsors one of the cameras. In return, RCP posts images taken by the Cincinnati Zoo Cam on a dedicated Facebook page; like the page to follow along! Interested in sponsoring a camera yourself? Find out more on RCP’s website.
RCP also works to improve the lives of people and predators by reducing attacks on livestock and retaliatory attacks by people. Reinforcing fencing around corrals to keep livestock safe from predators at night, for example, goes a long way towards building positive relationships between people and predators.
RCP also helps communities realize tangible benefits from having carnivores around by providing employment for local people, school supplies, scholarships and a stocked medical clinic. Regular education and outreach activities such as movie nights and community meetings are held. They even take villagers and schoolchildren who have never been to the national park on educational visits with support from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Angel Fund.
We hope you will come see Imara and Haka, our new painted dogs, at the Zoo next time you visit and we invite you to join us in supporting the conservation of their counterparts in the wild.
June 25, 2014 No Comments