New this year, families will be nose-to-nose with two new residents of the Zoo, critically endangered African painted dogs. The pair is made up of a male named Hatari, and a female named Layla. The duo is the “Alpha pair,” meaning they will lead the TLPZ pack. The pair can be found in a lush, expansive habitat designed specifically for painted dogs in Ituri Forest located in the Africa area of the Zoo. TLPZ is only the third AZA accredited Zoo in the state with African painted dogs.
The dogs are among the most endangered canids in the world. The largest populations remain in southern Africa and numbers are estimated around 6,000 in the wild today. Habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and diseases such as rabies and canine distemper are among the perils faced by these dogs.
“We are excited to welcome African painted dogs for the first time to the Zoo. They are an incredibly charismatic species, it’s important to teach guests about the obstacles these dogs face in the wild” said Chris Massaro, General Curator at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. “We are thrilled to be part of this important conservation effort for one of the rarest canid in the world.”
On occasion, the Zoo will host carcass feeds to display the unique hunting behavior of this species. Hunting cooperatively, African painted dogs hunt in packs of 6 to 20 animals. They hunt antelopes and will also tackle wildebeests, particularly if their quarry is ill or injured. Thomson’s gazelles and impalas are the main items on the dogs’ menu. Known for their unique coats, the dog’s disruptive coloration makes the pack look much larger than it really is. This confuses prey and helps the dogs hunt with more success than other African predators. In fact, African painted dogs are one of the most successful hunters in all of Africa, catching 80 percent of the time.
More fun facts:
- Painted dogs have to eat their kill quickly, before the competition-lions and hyenas-get to it. A painted dog pack can finish a full-grown gazelle in less than 10 minutes!
- They communicate within the pack by making high-pitched vocalizations or squeaks, similar to squeaky tennis shoes. If a dog gets lost or separated from the group, it makes a bell-like sound called a “hoo” call. Unlike wolves and domestic dogs, African painted dogs do not howl.
- They move their very large ears to show other dogs what direction to go or what to do.
- Painted dogs depend on their ability to run for a long time without getting tired so they can outlast their prey. They can run up to 37 miles per hour for up to 3 miles.
For the latest on theme parks, attractions, dining venues and more across the region, be sure to follow Touring Central Florida on twitter @TourCentralFL & @androckb, and give our facebook page a like.