Year of the Dog is the Perfect Time to Get to Know the Zoo’s African Painted Dog Siblings!
As Angelenos prepare to celebrate Lunar New Year this Friday with colorful parades and family-friendly festivals, the Los Angeles Zoo hopes to educate guests on a species of canine in our own collection – the African painted dog. This particular wild species may be lesser known than domesticated dogs, but like your dog at home they also share a few key similarities to humans born in the Year of the Dog, namely being loyal, clever, and very social.
“African painted dogs are a caring community of individuals that work together for the welfare of the whole pack,” said Beth Schaefer, General Curator at the Los Angeles Zoo. “They play and hunt as a group and will skillfully divide up duties among the pack. They are also very loyal and are known to take care of each other. If one member of the group stays behind from a hunt due to illness or to watch the young, the hunters will bring back food for that animal.”
The largest populations of African painted dogs reside in the scrub savannah, grassy plains, and lightly wooded areas of southern and eastern Africa. The species has a mottled pattern of black, brown, yellow, and white fur that is unique to each individual animal and serves to make the pack look larger, confusing their predators and prey. Their long legs and streamlined bodies contribute to their speed and edurance, and in a sprint, African painted dogs can reach speeds of more than 44 miles per hour. Their oversized, rounded ears enhance their hearing and provide temperature regulation.
This carnivorous species is known as the most successful hunters in Africa, preying mostly on medium-sized antelope. However, their own numbers continue to decline due to reasons out of their control such as habitat loss, poacher’s snares, shooting by ranchers, vehicular traffic, and infectious disease. There are only between 5,000 to 6,000 African painted dogs existing in the wild and around 135 living in 35 zoos in the United States. Zoos continue to educate the public about this endangered predator because their dwindling numbers in the wild could lead to alarming consequences to their environment.
“It is crucial to learn about predators like the African painted dog because they are a keystone species in any ecosystem,” said Schaefer. “Without these predators in the environment, grazing species would overpopulate and eat all of the vegetation. Without vegetation there would be erosion and massive changes to the ecosystem. It’s a little easier to understand their role as a predator in the world when you learn how important their existence is to maintaining a delicate balance.”
Guests can view the three-year-old siblings, females Zahra and Ayana, and male Boss, in their habitat near Gorilla Grill, weather permitting.
About the Los Angeles Zoo
Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing nearly 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,100 animals representing 250 different species, many of which are rare or endangered. Its lush grounds on 113 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $21 for adults and $16 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo Web site at www.lazoo.org.