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Rare African Wild Dogs Debut at Wildlife Park

Feb 05, 2015 02:12 PM EST
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A group of 25 rare African wild dogs recently made their public debut at a wildlife park in Kent, shedding some light on this endangered species.

Three litters were born at Port Lympne Reserve, near Ashford, in November and December, bringing the total number of pups at the park to 42 (split between five packs).

Park officials likely did not announce their arrival because they wanted to see how the young dogs would fare in their new home first.

"We're delighted with the litters. All the pups are really strong and healthy. They are out and about exploring their surroundings and playing every day," the park's animal director, Adrian Harland, told BBC News. "They're all very curious so visitors should easily be able to see them."

African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), also known as African painted dogs for their spotted coat, number at as few as 3,000 in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The dogs are usually found in the open grasslands or sparse forests of southern Africa (especially Tanzania and northern Mozambique), but humans are increasingly encroaching on their territory, leading to habitat loss. That, plus their vulnerability to diseases and conflicts with domestic animals and livestock, has caused this species to become listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

But this group of 25 pups may help the species' survival.

"These impressive and beautiful dogs are endangered in the wild. Our breeding programs with these unique animals will help to ensure the species survives into the future," Harland said.

Unlike other dogs, African wild dogs have only four toes per foot, notes National Geographic. Each animal has its own unique coat - just like zebras - made up of a collage of red, black, brown, white and yellow fur, as well as big, rounded ears.

These wild dogs are also known for being very social, with packs often sharing food with others and helping weak or sick members. Females will give birth to anywhere from two to 20 pups, which are cared for by the entire pack.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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