Endangered African painted dogs make debut at Utica Zoo

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UTICA — A new species of animal has joined the pack at the Utica Zoo — African painted dogs. The all-female trio of dogs recently made the trip from the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio and are named Charlie, Ada, and Rosie.

The pack can now be found on African Ridge in the former striped hyena exhibit space; the striped hyenas moved to their new exhibit space, next to the African lions, earlier this summer.

“We are so happy to be able to introduce our visitors to Charlie, Ada, and Rosie,” said Mark Simon, visitor experience and marketing manager for the Zoo. “The painted dogs are such gorgeous and unique animals, we think our visitors are really going to enjoy watching them frolic and play together all while learning more about them and being able to view an animal they may not have ever been able to see in the wild.”

The addition of the painted dogs brings another species under the care of the Utica Zoo that is listed as endangered. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warns that fewer than 1,500 mature painted dogs are left in the wild.

African painted dogs are found in sub-Saharan Africa and feed primarily on antelope, warthogs, hares, and other small animals, and are considered extremely efficient carnivorous pack hunters. They maintain a strong and complex social structure and are known to share food amongst senior and young pack members.

The dogs face numerous threats in the wild that impact their numbers. Being killed by people either accidentally in traps, or on purpose while hunting for bush meat, viral diseases such as rabies and distemper (which can be permeated through packs due to their tight knit social structure), habitat loss, and competition with larger predators such as African Lions are leading causes of death for painted dogs. However, Painted Dogs are known to have large litters of pups, averaging 10-12 pups per litter. Part of their pack nature and hierarchy generally only allows for the alpha female to give birth to pups, but beta females will sometimes have pups of their own.

Painted dogs are most well known for their unique markings and coloring. While their patterning is unique to each dog, similar markings can be seen between family members. Pups are born with black and white fur and gain their brown/orange color fur as they mature. Another key feature of a painted dog’s appearance is its large, rounded ears. Not only do their ears serve as incredibly sensitive means of hearing their prey or other dogs in their pack, they also use their ears to stay cool. By propping their ears up, air moves over the skin and blood vessels and carries heat away from the body. Each dog has 19 individual muscles that help them control their ears and their movement.

For more information, visit UticaZoo.org.

People can also follow the zoo on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @uticazoo.

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