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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – January 31, 2018 – Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is experiencing an exciting baby boom of endangered animals, with the birth of three critically-endangered maned wolf pups (Chrysocyon brachyurus) in December, adding to the two Amur tiger cubs born four weeks earlier. The three pups were born on December 27 in a heated enclosure prepared in advance for the birth. The adult maned wolves are first time parents, but are relaxed and caring for the babies together, as is the norm for this species. This is a significant birth, as captive breeding can be difficult with maned wolves, and for the fact that this is the first time for this species at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo—in fact, for Connecticut itself!     

The female maned wolf, Bonita, and male, Paulo, are devoted parents.  Bonita has paid particular attention to the smallest pup in the litter, separating it from its littermates to be sure it has time to nurse adequately. Paulo is anxious to return that pup to the litter, not liking to see his pups separated from each other.  Bonita is age six, and arrived at Connecticut’s only Zoo from the Greensboro Science Center in December 2011, while “Paulo” is age seven, and arrived in March, 2016 from the Philadelphia Zoo.

Today, there are about 4,000 maned wolves in the wild. This number is dwindling due to their severely compromised habitat being destroyed by farmers through intense deforestation. In addition, they are threatened by road kill, persecution by humans, and disease due to contact with domestic animals. There is also a belief that certain of their organs have magical healing powers. Because of this, the birth of the Zoo’s three pups represents a welcome increase in the overall scarce population.

The development of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) has enabled the breeding of maned wolves in captivity. The SSP program pairs genetically significant individuals to produce offspring with the greatest genetic variation. The goals of the Maned Wolf SSP (MWSSP) are to maintain a viable, self-sustaining captive population in North America, enhance the health and wellbeing of individuals living in North American zoos, and promote conservation of this species through education and field conservation initiatives.

“We couldn’t be happier with how our SSP program wolf pups and tiger cubs are coming along,” stated Gregg Dancho, zoo director. “Both the maned wolf mother and father are taking well to parenthood. We have left the family alone, monitoring their progress on cameras installed in the enclosure for that purpose. We’ll know more about them at their first vet check very soon.”

About Maned wolves

The maned wolf is not really a wolf, but neither is it a fox. It is a canid, and is the only species in the genus Chrysocyon, meaning “golden dog.” Described as looking like a fox on stilts, these shy mammals are native to South America, and dislike cold weather. For that reason, they have access to a heated enclosure year round. Part of the Zoo’s Pampas Plains exhibits, they inhabit lowland grasslands and scrublands of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru.

The pups are fully grown in a year, and live approximately 12-15 years in captivity. It is not known what their lifespan is in the wild. Maned wolves are monogamous, taking only one mate for their lifetime. The pair will share a territory in the wild, only coming into contact at mating season. Males will assist in the care of the young, regurgitating food for their pups. The maned wolf eats cuis (wild guinea pigs), rabbits, and burrowing rodents. They also will eat insects, reptiles and birds, along with sugarcane, fruits, and other plants. The maned wolves’ small teeth and jaws make it hard for it to eat larger prey such as farm animals, but it is hunted and killed by farmers who believe they are eating their livestock, because of their intimidating size. Both males and females are 4 to 4.5 feet in length, excluding its tail, and weigh between 44 and 50 pounds.