Xena’s Big Delivery of Fourteen Painted Pups

While alpha male, Dojo, stood guard outside the den box in the early morning hours of November 17, Xena, our female African painted dog, began giving birth to her fourth litter of critically endangered pups.

Throughout the delivery, the exact number of pups was a mystery to Zoo staff as they monitored Xena’s progress on remote cameras. After two days of active labor, they confirmed that Xena had given birth to 14 painted pups!

Xena has become an experienced and doting mother. Therefore, her caretakers suspect that it will be some time before she will allow her pups to leave their den and explore the world around them.

If you have followed our African painted pack’s history, you may already know that Xena delivered a litter of three pups in November 2014 who were surrogate-reared by Lilly, a beautiful golden retriever. At the time, Xena lacked strong maternal skills and was too inexperienced to properly care for her pups. Thanks to Lilly and her pup, Maple, the trio of pups is now grown and living at the Los Angeles Zoo.

The Zoo staff is experiencing a unique situation with our newest pack of pups. Last November, Xena gave birth to eight pups. When the pups were born, Xena’s motherly instincts kicked in! Today, the eight yearlings are helping their parents raise their new brothers and sisters.  This helps the yearlings to gain essential life experience, which will help them to be successful when raising their own families in the future.

Once the new pups are weaned from mom Xena, the yearlings will be transitioned to other accredited zoos where they will be paired with the best genetic matches for reproductive success. These breeding recommendations are determined by the Species Survival Plan for African painted dogs.

African painted dogs are highly social and live in close-knit packs. Painted dogs have elaborate greeting ceremonies and established roles within their hierarchy. When hunting together, a pack can easily take down prey as large as a wildebeest. In fact, individual members have been known to eat up to 22 pounds of food at time in order to carry it back to mothers and young pack members. Once the 14 pups begin to eat solid food, Zoo caretakers will start feeding them up to 100 pounds of meat daily.

Did you know that the average gestation period for an African painted dog is 69-72 days? Typically, their litters consist of anywhere from 6 to 12 pups! However, Xena has proved that having more than 12 pups in one litter is entirely possible!

Approximately 530 African Painted dogs live in human care worldwide. Only 5,000 to 7,500 individuals remain in the wild, which has qualified the species as critically endangered.

At the Oklahoma City Zoo, we are dedicated to ensuring the survival of the African painted dog through education and partnerships. In about 4 to 6 weeks, our 14 dashing pups and will leave the comfort of their den to explore their outside habitat and eat solid food!

Come out and visit our entire family of 25 African painted dogs this winter!

– Crystal Butler, animal caretaker


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