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Maned Wolf Conservation

The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is a member of the Canidae family in the Carnivora order. These monogamous animals eat small berries, fruits, rodents, rabbits, and insects. Rare in captivity, maned wolves are endangered in their native home—Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia.

The maned wolf is one of the many species maintained at the National Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal that participate in cooperative breeding programs under the auspices of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

In 1975, the first maned wolves were shipped to SCBI Front Royal from the São Paolo Zoo in their native Brazil. These individuals, along with a group of bush dogs (Speothos venaticus) and crab-eating foxes (Cerdocyon thous) formed the nucleus of a comparative study of social behavior in South American canids, directed by Dr. Devra Kleiman.

Since the start of the program, a number of graduate and post-graduate students have examined the behavior of maned wolves and other canids at SCBI Front Royal, including

  • Dr. Charles Brady (Curator of Mammals at Memphis Zoo)
  • Ingrid Porton (Curator of Primates at St. Louis Zoo)
  • Dr. James Dietz (professor at University of Maryland)
  • Dr. Maxeen Biben (adjunct professor at Shenandoah University)
  • Brazilian graduate student Agnes Velloso (University of Maryland)

Their studies have added significantly to our knowledge and understanding of canid sociality, behavior, and physiology.

Species Survival Plan Program

Based on the increasingly threatened status of wild populations and intermittent breeding success in captivity, the maned wolf was added to AZA’s emerging Species Survival Plan program (SSP) in 1985. SCBI wildlife biotechnician, Melissa Rodden, has coordinated the Maned Wolf SSP (MWSSP) since its inception.

AZA’s SSP encourages and facilitates cooperative captive management programs for selected species maintained in zoological institutions throughout North America. While each SSP determines specific goals for its program, these generally include

  • research into captive husbandry issues
  • developing education programs to alert the public to conservation threats
  • working with governmental organizations and wildlife biologists in the species’ range countries to initiate conservation programs

Primary Focus of MWSSP

Out of necessity, husbandry concerns have been a primary focus for the MWSSP. Reproductive behavior and physiology, parental behavior, infant behavior and development, nutrition, and health issues are examples of some of the research activities supported by the MWSSP in recent years.

All available management and husbandry information was included in the Husbandry Manual for the Maned Wolf, which was produced by the Maned Wolf SSP in 1995 and distributed to all members of the MWSSP.

Current Focus

The MWSSP is now concentrating attention on two areas of interest:

  1. The development of materials for zoo and wildlife educators
  2. Support for field conservation initiatives in Brazil

To find out more

Contributions from a number of member zoos, including SCBI, enabled the MWSSP to partially fund graduate student Stephanie Bestelmeyer’s recent field study of the ecology and behavior of maned wolves in Emas National Park, Brazil.

Louisville Zoo Education Curator Marcelle Gianelloni, in collaboration with several members of the MWSSP, prepared a PDFManed Wolf Education Bulletin to be used in zoo education programs. The Bulletin has been translated into Portuguese by Brazilian veterinarian Fabiano Montiani Ferreira and will soon be made available to zoo educators and other interested parties in Brazil.

Additional information about AZA’s conservation programs can be found on AZA's website.