Wild puppies stretch their legs at Brookfield Zoo

March 15, 2011 (BROOKFIELD, Ill.)

The 10 very active puppies were born on November 26, but they've been behind the scenes all this time, waiting for spring. There are six male pups in the new litter, and four females, and the running around goes round and round.

"They're still puppies," said the zoo's mammal curator Amy Roberts. "They're really in to any enrichment we put out. They're still exploring life, still getting to know their exhibit, still just full of energy. So they'll play, play, play real hard and then they'll sleep for a couple of hours."

So they're very much like the domesticated puppies , but these African dogs are still very wild, and they are vanishing from the plains of Africa.

"Every birth is very important right now because they are critically endangered in Africa, and we're trying to get their numbers up in zoos to help save them," said Joan Daniels, associate curator of mammals.

Important, and very cute, and it's enough to make you want to pick them up and hug them.

But these dogs, or painted wolves as they are sometimes called, have never been tamed and you wouldn't want one for a pet.

"Absolutely not," Roberts said. "They may look like a dog. They may act like a dog, but they are an absolute wild dog. You could not domesticate them."

One of the most interesting things about these African wild dogs is that they can have about 20 pups in a litter. This presents a problem because mom only has eight to 10 feeding stations. Why did nature do this?

"Because, not only does mom take care of them, mom only takes care of them until they're about 32 days old," said Roberts. "And, as soon as they emerge from the den, the entire pack starts feeding them."

The pups and three adults will be on display through the fall and then some of the pups will be sent to other zoos for more breeding.

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