GREENSBORO — Five American red wolves, a critically endangered species, have been born at the North Carolina Zoo.
According to a release from the zoo, five new pups — three males, two females — were born April 21. They and they mother are doing well.
According to the release, there are currently only 15-20 red wolves found in the wild, only in eastern North Carolina, making them the most endangered canid in the world.
The wolves were born as part of an American red wolf breeding program. The new litter brings the number of red wolves in the Zoo’s breeding program to 25, making it the second-largest pack in the U.S. after Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.
In celebration of North Carolina, the rare pups were named after plants found in the state. The names for the males are Oak (Appalachian Oak), Cedar (Red Cedar) and Sage (Azure Sage). The females are named Lily (Carolina Lily, the state’s wildflower) and Aster (Piedmont Aster). They are the offspring of Piglet (female) and Jewell (male). This is the first litter for this pair.
The pups are being kept in a quiet, non-public viewing area of the Zoo and have minimal contact with staff and keepers. This allows their mother to raise the pups with the least amount of stress in a natural habitat.
Once common throughout the southeastern United States, the wolves were driven to near extinction during the late 1960s, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an aggressive conservation effort — the American Red Wolf Recovery Program — that led to new ways to track and protect the species. The zoo has bred eleven pups over the past three years and has successfully bred 34 wolves since the program began in 1994. Currently, there are about 240 (that number can change daily during the whelping season) red wolves in breeding programs throughout the U.S. Red wolves normally have three to five pups per litter.
The North Carolina Zoo led the successful efforts to have the American red wolf become part of the Association of Zoo and Aquariums SAFE (Saving Species From Extinction) program. Under this program, the zoo leads in conserving the species and growing both the population in the wild and the animals under human care.
AZA SAFE Species programs aim to protect endangered species around the world. For more information, visit www.aza.org/aza-safe.
To learn more about the North Carolina Zoo and our red wolf program please visit www.nczoo.org.
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