Painted dog update: Ella's pups are on the move

Keepers say month-old painted dog pups are active and growing fast

African painted dog Ella's month-old litter of pups are on their feet and growing fast, according to keepers at the Oregon Zoo.

"Their eyes are open now, and they're very active," said Laura Weiner, senior keeper for the zoo's Africa area. "Their markings are becoming more distinct too."

The pups were born in early November and have been eating, sleeping and growing in the maternity den ever since. This litter is the first offspring for Ella and the pups' father, Juma, and the first of this endangered species to be born at the Oregon Zoo.

According to Weiner, these pups usually wean at around 6 weeks, so it won't be long before Ella's litter is eating meat and interacting with the rest of the pack. African painted dogs are very social, and each has its own distinct vocalization, known as a "whoo call," that the pack uses to communicate.

"The pups are starting to whoo call to one another when they venture out of their box," said Weiner. "Even at this young age, they can use their call to let Ella and the rest of the pack know where they are."

The first-time mom and her new family remain off view in a private maternity den to allow the new family a comfortable place to bond. Animal-care staff have taken a mostly hands-off approach, but are closely monitoring the litter to make sure everything is going well.

"Ella is doing great," Weiner said. "She's starting to take small breaks from the pups and get some much-needed naps with Juma and her sister Brie."

African painted dogs are listed as Endangered by the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Ella, Brie and Juma came to the Oregon Zoo in 2017 based on a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for African painted dogs. Juma, the pups' father, came from the Oklahoma City Zoo, and Ella and her sister Brie came from the Cincinnati Zoo.

The AZA has established Species Survival Plans for many threatened or endangered species — cooperative breeding programs that help create genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations to guarantee the long-term future of animals. These SSPs also support relevant field projects, research and public education to help prevent animal endangerment and extinction.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

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