Staff at West Midland Safari Park are welcoming the arrival of an adorable litter of African painted dogs.
Carnivore keepers were surprised to see not one, not two, but 14 little noses appear from the painted dog den on the evening of 12 August.
Evidence that there may be some new arrivals, came on 16 July when mum Monique, disappeared into the den and didn’t reappear for a couple of days. Keepers suspected that Monique was about to give birth and confirmation came when dad Viper, started to guard the den, chasing off his family and growling at the keepers’ jeeps!
Now at just five weeks old, the tiny youngsters have started to emerge occasionally from the den, ready to play with their older siblings and meet the public.
The birth of the pups is good news for world-wide painted dog conservation efforts. Habitat loss, snares and the introduction of diseases from domestic animals, are a big problem to the remaining painted dog population, which is estimated to be around 5,500 individuals.
Head Keeper of Carnivores, Lawrence Bates said, “This is fantastic news not only for the Park, but also for painted dog conservation. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) lists them as ‘endangered,’ and last year, with help from our guests, we raised over £2,100 for the Painted Dog Conservation Trust. To raise this much money and now have 14 pups to add to our current eight is tremendous.”
He added, “This is Monique and Viper’s second litter of pups — their last litter was born in 2013 - so they have had lots of practise when it comes to raising babies. Painted dogs are devoted to their family and in the wild after a hunt, adults will ensure all of the young and sick dogs get a good meal, by regurgitating some of the meat! We have seen this behaviour at the Park as the pups’ older brothers and sisters have been doing the same for their younger siblings.”
The painted dogs pups are the latest success of an endangered species breeding programme. They follow the birth of baby southern white rhino, Persian fallow deer fawns and Eld’s deer fawns, also born this year.
West Midland Safari Park is now home to a pack of 22 painted dogs, the first of which arrived in 2002. Dad, Viper was born in 2005, in the first litter of pups the Park had. This is the third litter of pups to be born at the Park since then.
There is more chance to glimpse the painted dogs over the Park’s current ‘Summer Nights’ event, where the Park is open from 9am to 9pm daily until 4 September. Summer Nights is included in the standard admission charge of £22.00 for adults, £17.00 for children aged 3-15 years and £20.00 for concessions. Children under the age of 3 years are admitted free of charge and admission includes a free-return ticket. Adventure Theme Park rides are charged extra.
Further information is available from the Park’s official website www.wmsp.co.uk or by telephone 01299 402114. You can follow the progress of the painted dog pups on the Safari Park’s official Facebook page: http://www.wmsp.co.uk/facebook