In May, the Houston Zoo welcomed a big and bouncy baby elephant, Nelson. Now, the zoo has announced the return of African painted dogs after a three-year absence.
The four male dogs moved to Houston from Binder Park Zoo near Battle Creek, Michigan, according to the zoo. The dogs, Modo, Rafiki, Tamu, and Wiki, were part of a litter of 11 pups that were born in Michigan on November 30, 2018. They are descendants of Ghost, a painted dog who lived at the Houston Zoo before moving to Binder Park.
The move is part of the Species Survival Plan through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Guests who are interested in conservation can support African dogs in the wild: a portion of each admission ticket membership is donated to conservation efforts across the world, per the zoo.
African painted dogs are one of the most endangered carnivores in Africa, with an estimated global population of less than 5,000 and declining due to human conflict, habitat fragmentation, and widespread diseases like distemper and rabies, per the zoo.
As the animals are currently listed as endangered, the zoo reports that it has worked to protect African painted dogs in the wild for the past 10 years by providing support and training for local, African wildlife anti-poaching scouts that patrol thousands of kilometers of African painted dog habitat to protect this species from harm.
In 2019, wildlife protection scouts supported by the Houston Zoo in Kenya made four arrests for illegal wildlife poaching and removed 120 wire traps set for wildlife.