"We're trying to save the African painted dog," said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of the Brookfield Zoo. "It's dwindling in numbers to about 3,500 to about 4,000 animals. That's all that's left."
The Brookfield Zoo houses five African painted dogs. They look similar to pets, but are not very gentle at all. In fact they are wild animals and pack hunters, which has made them the enemy of farmers and ranchers in their native lands.
"They're not very well-liked in Africa," said Amy Robert, Brookfield Zoo curator of mammals. "They're huge victims of snares which indiscriminately kill animals. They're also persecuted by farmers and ranchers. They're hit by cars."
North American zoos currently house 115 African painted dogs, which is good news for the survival of the species, but the situation in Africa is just the opposite. In the wild, the painted dog has three predators: lions, hyenas and humans.
"Just like wolves here, they are considered a livestock predator," explained Dr, John Tico McNutt, PhD, founder of the Predator Conservation Trust, "and they are on occasion a problem for livestock farmers."
"They shoot them," he continued. "They poison them. Sometimes they run them down on horseback and literally just beat them."
To successfully save the African painted dog from extinction, experts agree there must be worldwide cooperation.
"I think collaboration with zoos and field researchers are the only hope for these dogs," said Amy Roberts.
If that doesn't happen, Roberts predicts the painted dog will go extinct.
"Unfortunately we're going to have to say goodbye to one of the most beautiful canines in the world," she said.