Thursday, July 2, 2015

Chicago's Brookfield Zoo Witnesses Births of Mexican Wolf Pups

Mexican wolf pups in Brookfield Zoo

The Brookfield Zoo in Chicago has recently celebrated its first births of Mexican wolf pups. The pups were born in late May and enthralled visitors on Tuesday by running in and out of their den, following their mother around, and playing in their woodland enclosure. These youngsters represent the zoo's active cooperation in the effort to save the subspecies listed as "endangered." According to the zoo's spokesperson Sondra Katzen, the pups are four weeks old, being weaned, and taking more and more chances exploring outside with their parents - three-year-old mother Zana and five-year-old father Flint. She further added that zoo officials think there are four pups, but the size of the litter will not be definite until July when members of the staff do a wellness check on the wolves. Maggie Dwire, a U.S Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and assistant Mexican wolf recovery coordinator in the state of New Mexico, indicated that the wolves usually breed in February and March and have offspring of four to six pups in April and May. She further added that Brookfield Zoo is one of 55 zoos in the United States and Mexico actively participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan. Each year, representatives of the plan regulate how many pups need to be produced to keep the captive population at its destined level of about 300. Last year, they decided to make plans for twenty breeding pairs. Brookfield Zoo is one of five U.S zoos that has produced Mexican wolf pups. These pups are then contemplated for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service's pup-fostering efforts in which very young pups are transferred from a captive litter to a similar-aged wild litter so that the receiving parents can raise them as their own. But in the case of pups born in Brookfield Zoo, the situation is different. That is, they were born too late in May which is later than those born in the wild and timing was not right. The Brookfield Zoo's pups will stay at the zoo until their parents hopefully produce a second litter next year. This would allow Zana and Flint, who are first-time parents, learn parenting skills while raising a second brood. In addition, some will be considered to be released into the wild depending on their genetics and predisposition. The first successful fostering of Mexican wolf pups in the wild included the litter of a female named Ernesta from Brookfield Zoo who was released into the wild and later gave birth.
Pups with their mother

Captive breeding is an essential tool when reviving populations of endangered species or even species as listed as "extinct in the wild." And it is the role of zoos and other similar facilities to actively participate in making sure that whatever species in the dire need of help reaches a figure large enough to be reintroduced into the wild. One classic example was seen in the case of the Arabian oryx which was declared "extinct in the wild" in the early 1970s. Joint conservation efforts between U.S zoos and similar facilities in the Middle East helped revive its global population and the antelope is now thriving in protected areas of its homeland. Similar efforts are currently going in the case of Mexican wolves. This recent birth of wolf pups at Brookfield Zoo has brought a sense of hope among members of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan and other conservation groups. In addition, there are 54 other zoos in the U.S and Mexico actively participating in the plan. Hopefully, they will be able to have Mexican wolf offspring of their own in order to further increase the captive population for reintroductions into the wild and bring the Mexican wolf back from the brink of extinction.

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