Although 2012 has only just begun, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia (SCBI-FR), already has something to celebrate in the new year: the birth of four maned wolf pups Jan. 5. It is the first litter born at SCBI-FR in two years and will play an important role in helping researchers maintain a viable, self-sustaining population under human care.
“Every pup born here helps us understand more about the biology of this incredible species,” said Nucharin Songsasen, an SCBI research biologist. “SCBI has a long history with the maned wolf, both in terms of studying the biology and maintaining the genetic diversity of individuals living under human care, as well as in conserving the animals in the wild.”
The four pups were born to mother, 8-year-old Salina, and father, 4-year-old Nopal, who was born at SCBI-FR. Maned wolf pups have a 50 percent mortality rate in the first month, so keepers are monitoring them closely. This litter is particularly valuable because Nopal is the 10th most genetically valuable male among the 36 reproductively viable males in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Maned Wolf Species Survival Plan, which matches animals across the country to ensure genetic diversity in the population. Seventy-two maned wolf pups have been born at SCBI-FR since 1975, and the facility currently has 12 wolves, including the pups. The National Zoo has two maned wolves on exhibit at the Cheetah Conservation Station.
The four maned wolf pups born January 5, 2012 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, received their first vaccinations Thursday, February 16, 2012, during a routine medical exam. SCBI veterinary technician Lisa Ware worked with animal care staff to perform the exams, insert identification transponders and vaccinate the pups against distemper and panleukopenia.
According to Ware, the cubs appear healthy and the litter appears to have two males and two females, though the veterinarians will confirm this when the animals are older and their sex is more obvious. The pups weigh between four and five pounds.
“All of the pups were bright, appeared in good health and are starting to get just a bit feisty,” Ware said.
The pups’ next vaccinations will be in three weeks. This is the first maned wolf litter born at the National Zoo’s Front Royal facility in two years, and it will play an important role in helping researchers maintain a viable, self-sustaining population under human care.
Maned wolves live in central South America. With approximately 20,000 left in the wild, the species is considered near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The species’ primary threats include habitat loss and degradation and human conflict. Currently only 20 percent of natural maned wolf habitat remains, and only five percent of that habitat is protected. The National Zoo has two maned wolves on exhibit at Cheetah Conservation Station.
Two of the four maned wolf pups born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, are in need of names and for the first time the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is turning to Facebook to find the most fitting monikers.
Starting Monday, March 26, Facebook users can vote for a name for the female and the male pups through a poll on the Zoo’s Facebook page.
Animal care staff recommended the eight options in an attempt to reflect the animals’ personalities, natural history and range.
The names to select from for the male pup are:
The possible names for the female pup are:
Voting will close at noon Friday, March 30, and the Zoo will announce the winning names on Facebook that afternoon.
The votes are in, and two of our maned wolf pups now have names! Through a poll on Facebook, voters chose to name the female Bela with 281 votes, and , voters chose to name the male Rocko with 699 votes. Bela is Portuguese for “beautiful,” and Rocko is the nickname of a maned wolf researcher’s father. Thank you to everyone who voted!
Generous donors have named the other two wolf pups Hope and Peak.