Elusive wolves breed at Paignton Zoo


Paignton Zoo’s South American maned wolves are rearing a litter of three pups.

This is the first litter from this pair; male Tolock arrived at Paignton Zoo in September 2016 from Katowice Zoo in Poland, where he was born in 2015. Female Milla was born in December 2012 and came to the UK a year later from Nordens Ark Zoo in Sweden. It is seven years since Paignton Zoo has bred maned wolves. They are part of the carefully managed European Endangered species Programme.

Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment said: “Judging by the parents’ change in behaviour, the pups were born on 23rd February. Being carnivores we left them undisturbed to get on with it. The pups were not seen by the keepers for four weeks. Our maned wolves are quite elusive, but with patience can usually be seen mid-afternoon. There will be a much better chance of seeing one now there are five and especially when the pups become more mobile!”

The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is the largest canid of South America. Adults stand almost 1 metre (3 feet) tall at the shoulder and weigh 20 to 25 kg. (50 to 55 lb). They catch small prey such as rodents, hares and birds, but fruit forms a large part of their diet. The mane can be raised to display aggression.

The maned wolf is shy and flees when alarmed. In fact you are more likely to smell them than see them. Their urine, which they use to communicate, has a very distinctive smell. Often described as “a fox on stilts” due to its coloration, it is not closely related to any other canid and may be a survivor from the Pleistocene fauna of large South American mammals.

Found in parts of Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia, the maned wolf is an endangered species thanks largely to the effects of man – habitat loss, poaching, roadkill and domestic dogs (which can attack the wolves and spread diseases) are all problems.

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