More Endangered Than Tigers
In the wild, you'll find more endangered tigers than you will of this predator. In the last fifty years, they have disappeared from nearly two-thirds of the countries where they formerly lived. In the 1980s, disease wiped out their entire population in both Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve and Tanzania 's famous Serengeti National Park. Even in zoos, you would have to visit an average of seven nationally accredited zoos before seeing one of these rare creatures.
With an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 wild dogs left surviving in Africa and less than 200 in America, breeding African wild dogs and supporting their conservation in the wild is critical. The African wild dog, also known as the Cape hunting dog or painted wolf, is managed through a Species Survival Plan® (SSP). Members of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) manage the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. SSPs also participate in a variety of other cooperative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction, and field projects. Zoo professionals involved in the African wild dog SSP issued a breeding recommendation for the wild dogs at Naples Zoo as they are ranked high on the list of those animals whose genetics are not represented in the North American population.
Based on this need for the future of this endangered species, Naples Zoo built this new exhibit for its wild dogs with breeding in mind. The large exhibit can be opened wide for full use of the space or sectioned off to create a separate whelping yard for females and puppies.
The two female African wild dogs that reside at Naples Zoo were born at the Toledo Zoo in 2001 and came to Naples Zoo via Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The two males were born in 1998 at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Why So Endangered?
Although all large African carnivores suffer from persecution as well as loss of habitat and prey, the African wild dog has the highest risk of extinction. Part of the problem is how people perceive them. Myths based on single incidents or pureconjecture instigated concerted campaigns to eradicate them. Government authorized killings were promoted into the middle of the twentieth century and poaching and poisoning continues today. And in a recent study in Zimbabwe more than half the recorded wild dog deaths were from road kills.
In addition, their social nature makes them especially susceptible to disease. And to add to the risk, the growing bushmeat trade is also reducing wild dog numbers. Bushmeat is the term used for the killing of wild animals including gorillas, chimpanzees, and many other rare species for the sale of their meat in commercial markets. Snares that are set for antelope are catching wild dogs more than any other large carnivore.