The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is pleased to announce the birth of six African Painted Dog pups. Born to first-time mother Pele on November 5 and 6, the arrival of the pups is exciting news for wildlife conservationists. The species has seen its population plummet over the last decade from an estimated 11,800 in 2010 to just about 5,000 in the wild in 2022.
Pele and her puppies are spending quality time together behind the scenes in their den. Caretakers are able to monitor the pack through video monitoring equipment in the area and have seen the pups nursing regularly, a significant indicator that they are healthy and thriving. Pele, 3, came to the OKC Zoo in October 2021, followed in May 2022 by males Guy and Remy, also 3. Mom and her puppies are doing well spending time together with the pack.
“Every birth at the Oklahoma City Zoo is significant and we’re extremely excited to have our first litter of African painted dog puppies in our Predator Pass Habitat since opening in 2021 and the first at the Zoo since 2016.” said Tyler Boyd, the Zoo’s Curator of Carnivores. “We are currently focused on letting mom continue to bond with the newest additions behind the scenes, along with the rest of the pack—something vital to their success.”
African painted dogs are social animals with unique tri-colored coats, fluffy white tails and prominent ears. The dogs live in groups between 2 and 40 individuals. They have a complex hierarchy that is usually dominated by a monogamous breeding pair made up of the alpha female and alpha male. Both in the wild and in human care, African painted dog pack dynamics constantly change. This can be due to external stimuli as well as internal factors such as the age and health status of pack members.
“The Oklahoma City Zoo has a rich history of support for African painted dogs, both at the Zoo and in the wild.” Boyd said. “By supporting conservation programs specifically targeting African painted dogs, we can not only increase awareness about this dynamic species to our guests here at home, but also continue to learn about this remarkable species through programs strategically created to conserve African painted dogs throughout their range, helping save this species from extinction.”
One of the ways the OKC Zoo supports African painted dog conservation is supporting the SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Boyd serves on the Steering Committee for this group and works as the Fundraising Committee Chair. The goal of the African painted dog SAFE program is to increase the impact that AZA-accredited zoos have on species conservation in each of its three regions in East Africa, North/West/Central Africa and Southern Africa.
Since 2016, the OKC Zoo has also partnered with the Painted Dog Research Trust (PDRT) to provide financial support from its Round Up for Conservation Fund for research and conservation efforts and has sent Zoo experts to assist with the organization's research and education programs in Zimbabwe. The OKC Zoo has been caring for African painted dogs since 1972 and currently has 9 painted dogs as part of its animal family.
In 2022, renowned African painted dog conservationist and PDRT founder Dr. Greg Rasmussen visited the OKC Zoo to provide a conservation lecture for the Zoo’s team members on the current state of the painted dog population, pressing threats of their survival and PDRT’s efforts to save them from extinction. Dr. Rasmussen has studied painted dogs in Zimbabwe for over 30 years, one of the longest studies of the species.
Guests are encouraged to keep an eye on the Zoo’s social media channels for updates about the pups and their public viewing debut.
Brighten your holidays with online reservations for OKC ZOO SAFARI LIGHTS with all new lanterns! Presented by OG&E, OKC ZOO SAFARI LIGHTS is a festive celebration featuring brand-new, larger-than-life light displays viewable on a driving tour and separate walking experience through the park. This holiday tradition runs nightly through New Year’s Day, Monday, January 1, 2024, from 5:30 to 11 p.m. with the last check-in at 10 p.m. SAFARI LIGHTS is open holiday nights including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Drive-thru tickets cost $70/vehicle ($60/vehicle for ZOOfriends) and includes up to four admissions for guests 3+ for the walk-thru course. Guests only wanting to experience the walk-thru portion can purchase tickets for $16/person ($14/person for ZOOfriends). Children 2 and under are free. Tickets for the drive-thru must be purchased in advance at www.okczoo.org/safari-lights.
The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry at 4 p.m. The Zoo will be closed to the public during the daytime on Christmas Day as well as Tuesdays and Wednesdays through February 7, 2024. Purchase advance Zoo admission tickets at okczoo.org/tickets and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular daytime admission is $16 for adults and $13 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.
Stay connected with the Zoo on Facebook, X, Instagram, Threads, Linktree and TikTok, and by visiting our blog stories. Take a wild approach with your gift-giving this holiday season and consider a 12-month, ZOOfriends Membership Passport to the OKC Zoo. Get a membership for 1, 2, or 4 people through January 1, 2024 and receive a voucher for one free plush animal ($24.99 value) from the Zoo’s gift shop. Or purchase a membership for 6, 8, or 10 people and get two free plush animals. Vouchers can be redeemed any time before December 31, 2024. You will also be supporting the Zoo’s animal family, education programming and conservation initiatives both locally and globally. Join or renew today at www.okczoo.org/membership.