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Denver Zoo is celebrating the birth of three maned wolf pups, which were born on May 1. The unnamed triplets, made up of two males and one female, were born to mother, Adrianna, and father, Inigo, and are the first of their species to be born at the Zoo since 2009. All three pups were just given a clean bill of health by Denver Zoo doctors. Though the pups are not yet old enough to explore the outside world on their own yet, Zoo visitors might catch glimpses of them as their protective mother totes them from den to den inside the Wolf Pack Woods exhibit.
These are the first pups for both Inigo and Adrianna, who both arrived at Denver Zoo in September 2013. Inigo came from Texas’ Abilene Zoo, where he was born in December 2011. Adrianna arrived from Springfield, Missouri’s Dickerson Park Zoo, but was born at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, near Glen Rose, Texas in February 2012. The pair came to Denver Zoo as part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.
Maned wolves resemble red foxes with long legs. Despite their reddish coloring and general appearance they are not related to foxes and despite their name, they are not members of the wolf family. The maned wolf is the largest wild dog of South America. Standing about three feet tall at the shoulder, their long legs enable them to see above the tall grass – an adaptation that helps them hunt for food and avoid predators.
The dogs have a variety of ways to communicate. They will raise the long, darker fur on their shoulders and neck when they sense danger. The erect mane gives the impression of greater size to intimidate any predator. They don’t howl, but rather bark, growl or whine depending on the situation. What guests may notice first, though is their aroma. The maned wolf’s urine has a strong, distinctive smell, similar to skunk spray. Like many animals, they use urine to mark the boundaries of their territory. Zoo visitors often smell the strong odor before they can see a maned wolf.
Maned wolves live in the South American grasslands and scrub forests of Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay, eastern Bolivia and southeastern Peru. With a wild population estimated at less than 23,600 individuals, maned wolves are classified as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Primary threats to their survival come from habitat loss for agriculture and ranching. Poultry farmers kill the wolves because they sometimes prey on chickens. Humans will also sometimes hunt maned wolves for food and for their body parts, which are believed to have magical powers.