New Orleans zoo’s near-threatened maned wolves have 4 pups

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Near-threatened maned wolves brought to New Orleans to breed have done just that, and are rearing four puppies, the Audubon Zoo announced Thursday.

Three are black and one is silver, but they’ll mature to their parents’ coloration — red coats shading to black on muzzles and long, slender legs.

Maned wolves are from South America. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources estimates there are about 17,000 mature maned wolves in the wild, with about 90% of them in Brazil. The biggest threat is what the organization describes as “intense deforestation” of their habitat in Brazil.

Although their coloration is similar to red foxes and they are called wolves, genetic studies show they are not in either group. Red wolves are the largest South American canids, about 3 feet (90 centimeters) tall at the shoulder and weighing about 50 pounds (23 kilograms).

The Audubon Zoo is among nine institutions with pairs recommended for breeding this year under the maned wolf species survival plan, said Andrew Haertzen, who is the zoo’s assistant curator for African animals but also oversees some other canids.

The Audubon Zoo’s adults arrived in August 2021 — mother Brisa from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and father Sheldon from Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas.

The pups were born Jan. 31, but the zoo delayed the birth announcement until Thursday because many canids die in their first month.

“There were no obvious health concerns for the pups, but we wanted to remain cautiously optimistic as this pair are first-time parents. The pups are doing extremely well,” Haertzen said in a statement emailed by a zoo spokesperson.

Keepers have not yet gotten close enough to tell how many males and females there are.

“Maned wolves are especially prone to stress in the early days of rearing pups and sometimes move them around frequently, which leads to injury and higher pup mortality as well,” Haertzen said.

Extra barricades have been set up in front of their habitat to keep people farther away from the family and avoid stressing the adults, the news release said.