10 21/10/2016

Bush dog pups born at Chester Zoo

• A bundle of bush dogs have started to emerge from their dens
• Two litters of pups arrived only weeks apart
• Wild populations have declined by around 25% in just 12 years
• Conservationists hope the pups will help them discover more about the species

Two litters of bush dog pups have been born and started to venture outside for the first time at Chester Zoo
Seeing double! Not one but two litters of bush dog pups have emerged from dens at Chester Zoo

Two litters of bush dog pups, born at Chester Zoo, have begun to venture outside for the first time. 

The first litter, consisting of five pups, was discovered on 11 August after keepers heard tiny squeals coming from their den. A second set then arrived just over a month later (16 September) but, with a possibility that some pups may still be tucked up in underground burrows, keepers are yet to determine exactly how many make up litter number two.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed the species as near threatened with extinction after their wild number dropped by more than 25% in just 12 years. They have suffered from habitat loss from farming, a loss of prey species and from contracting diseases spread by other canines or domestic dogs.

Chester Zoo has supported partners in Misiones, Argentina, where conservationists have helped establish a biological corridor of habitat for a range of different carnivorous species to improve the movement between different areas of the forests.

Dave Hall, team manager of carnivores at the zoo, explains:

We’re really excited by the arrival of the pups and they all seem to have settled in well to the pack.

These pups will certainly play an important role in helping us find out more about this mysterious and often overlooked species. The two litters arrived to mums Japura and Mana within only weeks of each other, which was previously thought to be a very rare occurrence. Usually just one alpha male and female produce offspring, so this special event gives us the opportunity to learn much more about the way the species live in groups.

So far, we’ve counted five pups in the first litter while the second litter is yet to fully emerge, but once they have the confidence to leave their den and explore the outside world we will do their first health check. This includes weighing, sexing, microchipping and recording any individual markings so that we can monitor their progress closely. This will allow us to gather much more accurate data about the behaviour of the group.

Bush dogs often hunt in packs to chase down vermin, lizards and birds and have been known to hunt animals nearly twice their size.

The species belongs to the canine family and live in small isolated populations in the wet forests and grasslands of Central and South America. Bush dogs have evolved over thousands of years to have a web of skin between their toes, which makes them excellent swimmers.

Bush dog facts

  • Scientific name: Speothos venaticus
  • Bush dogs belong to the canine family (Canidae) and they are commonly called vinegar dogs or savannah dogs.
  • The species is listed as near threatened with extinction according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list
  • They are only found in forests of Central and South America
  • Their main threats are wide-ranging and include habitat destruction due to farming and development; conflict with humans; poaching; spread of disease from domestic dogs