Howl at the Zoo
Heart-winning wolf puppies revealed at Houston Zoo
A duo of rare, endangered maned wolf puppies, Dora and Diego, have the Houston Zoo caught up in a swarm of cuteness. The pups are yet to go on display, but CultureMap got a sneak peek of the animals' employee-only playpen.
"They're teething a lot" says Sara Riger, a supervisor in the zoo's carnivore department, "so they play with stuffed animals we give them. Although they prefer to chew on something that bleeds, we don't want them thinking that it's OK to come up and chew on us when they're older."
The puppies' birth is the result of a brilliant breeding scheme. Their 6-year-old mother, Lucy, was sent from another zoo to the Bayou City to breed with a male maned wolf at the Houston Zoo. Lucy "didn't care for" her new litter, but Dora and Diego are now being hand-raised by local zoologists.
Although the endangered maned wolves are native to the grasslands, savannahs and tall grass prairies of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, these two pups seem right at home at the zoo's Denton Cooley Animal Hospital. On Thursday morning, they were napping under a Spider Man blanket tent inside a newly constructed puppy condo. The five-pound baby wolves are now on six bottles of formula a day, along with a cocktail of wet and dry puppy chow.
"When they were born [on December 30], their eyes were closed, and their ears were folded down," said Riger after awaking the puppies for their media cameo. Diego emitted a big yawn as Riger pointed out the slight appearance of rust-colored fur on the wolf's charcoal gray coat. "As he's gotten a little older, he's gotten more color to his tail," said Riger. "They really looked more like puppies when they were born. As they've gotten older, their snouts have gotten larger."
So that the pups have a canine role model, caretakers have hired an anatolian shepherd as a nighttime babysitter. "She has been spending most nights up here with us and the puppies," explained Riger. "She's 130 pounds to their five, and she is so gentle and very mindful of where they are. She plays with them, licks them and rolls them over. They test her patience a little bit because they are very rambunctious, but it's healthy to have another dog around that can stimulate them and play with them."
Soon, a roll of indoor-outdoor carpeting will be installed in the pups' room so that their legs can strengthen and gain traction skills. They should be weened within a week or two as they transition to a more kibble-heavy diet. "Maybe it's comforting for them, but they still like their bottles," says Riger.