Cute alert: New zoo ba­bies

ZooTampa wel­comes seven rare African painted dog pups as part of a col­lab­o­ra­tive species con­ser­va­tion pro­gram.

Tampa Bay Times - - Etc. - BY SHARON KENNEDY WYNNE Times Staff Writer Con­tact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tam­pabay.com. Fol­low @SharonKWn.

Need a stress re­liever? ZooTampa at Lowry Park is cel­e­brat­ing the births of seven rare African painted dogs, and they are aw­fully cute.

The multi-col­ored pups are the first of this en­dan­gered African species to be born at the Tampa zoo. They also are the first born to mother Layla and fa­ther Hatari, who both ar­rived at the zoo ear­lier this year as part of a col­lab­o­ra­tive species con­ser­va­tion pro­gram.

Also called African wild dogs, the species is na­tive to sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa. The global pop­u­la­tion is less than 6,600 and still declining due to hu­man con­flict, habi­tat frag­men­ta­tion and dis­eases such as ra­bies and dis­tem­per.

“We are one of only a few zoos play­ing a lead­ing role in the work to save the charis­matic African painted dog. The birth of th­ese pups is a sig­nif­i­cant step in help­ing save the pop­u­la­tion that is un­der se­vere threat,” said Dr. Larry Kill­mar, se­nior vice pres­i­dent and chief zoo­log­i­cal of­fi­cer at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. “When we wel­comed Layla and Hatari to our zoo, our hope was for a healthy lit­ter that will be part of AZA’s African Wild Dog Species Sur­vival Plan de­signed to help to save this im­por­tant species.”

The pups will stay close to their mother for the next three to four weeks be­fore leav­ing their den. As they get big­ger and more in­de­pen­dent, vis­i­tors can watch them grow up at the zoo.

The painted dogs’ name refers to its dis­tinc­tive multi-col­ored fur. Each an­i­mal’s coat is pat­terned dif­fer­ently. When trav­el­ing to­gether, their col­oration con­fuses prey by mak­ing the pack seem larger than it ac­tu­ally is. The dogs have large round ears and only four toes.

Work­ing co­op­er­a­tively, the dogs hunt in packs of six to 20. The zoo oc­ca­sion­ally hosts car­cass feeds to demon­strate their unique hunt­ing be­hav­ior, a zoo news re­lease said.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of ZooTampa

The multi-col­ored pups will stay close to their mother for the next three to four weeks be­fore leav­ing their den.

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