African painted dog pups have been born for the first time at Chester Zoo.
As members of one of the world’s most endangered carnivores, the litter of seven pups poking their heads out of their den for the first time is both painfully adorable and a boon for conservation.
Born to mother K’mana, the litter arrived on November 19 but only left their den some six weeks later.
African painted dogs are known for their large, round ears, social nature and incredible stamina.
They hunt in formidable packs and can reach speeds of more than 44mph, bringing down prey many times their size.
Only packs’ alpha male and female breed, with the other members helping to care for and feed the young.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list the species as endangered and sadly experts fear there may be fewer than 1,500 breeding dogs left in the wild of eastern and southern Africa.
“These rare pups are incredibly important new arrivals and a major boost to the international breeding programme which is working to try and ensure a brighter future for these impressive and beautiful animals,” said Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at Chester Zoo.
“Watching the pack explore and play together is wonderful and we hope the pups will help us to bring some much needed attention to the species which is under huge pressure in the wild.”
Chester Zoo has worked with the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust African Wild Dog Programme in Tanzania for the past 10 years – with the goal to return populations of painted dogs back to the wild.
“The African painted dog is one of the world’s most endangered carnivores and is facing a real battle for survival,” said Mike Jordan, Chester Zoo’s collections director.
“Time is running out for them but, through our long-standing conservation support in Africa, we’re fighting to change this.”