African Painted Dogs have gone by several different names over the years. In fact, you might’ve heard Cape Hunting dogs or African Wild dogs as well. Many individuals confuse their species with hyenas. Although their appearance is similar, this comparison is not accurate.
African Painted Dogs are Africa’s equivalent to North America’s wolves. They are both highly advanced predators, have a similar social structure and a place of dominance or subordination in the pack, and they take excellent care of their offspring.
The OKC Zoo has a long history with these amazing canids as part of its animal collection. Currently, the pack of African painted dogs at the Zoo consists of one female, two males and their litter of 12 pups! This makes this the largest pack of African Painted dogs in any zoo in North America.
While they may be thriving here in the Oklahoma City Zoo, their numbers are declining in the wild. Wild African Painted Dogs are a critically endangered species. In the increasingly small ranges in Africa, the species faces human encroachment, illegal hunting, introduced diseases and most recently, snares.
The Zoo is doing its part to protect these dogs in the wild by participating in a program with Dr. Greg Rasmussen. Most recently, the Zoo has welcomed Dr. Rasmussen on his USA lecture tour to speak at the Zoo. Dr. Greg, as he is affectionately called by his colleagues and students, has passionately studied this species for over 30 years. During his visit, the Zoo presented him with funds to purchase two radio collars that are also designed to keep the dogs from getting snared. Although the snares are not intended for their species, the dogs have frequently run into them as they hunt for prey.
In addition to purchasing the collars, Erica Buckwalter and Trisha McDonald, two staff members from the Zoo, will have an incredible opportunity to work with Dr. Rasmussen and his team in Zimbabwe, Africa, for two weeks. They will spend their time learning how to input research data and working in the field with his team to locate dogs and collar them.
Stay tuned for the adventure they will experience and the stories they will have to tell! In the meantime, come out to the Zoo and visit our own incredible pack of African Painted dogs – located directly across from the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital.
– Laura Bottaro, Zoo curator