Binder Park Zoo says farewell to four African Painted dogs

Four African painted dogs will be leaving the Binder Park Zoo and heading to new homes at the Houston Zoo. Modo, Rafiki, Tamu and Wiki are males that will make the move as part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). The four were part of a litter of eleven pups that were born at the zoo on November 30, 2018.

 Species Survival Plans are cooperative population management and conservation programs for selected species at North American zoos and aquariums. Each SSP carefully manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. African painted dogs are one of the most endangered carnivores in Africa, with an estimated global population of less than 5,000 and declining due to human conflict, habitat fragmentation and widespread diseases like distemper and rabies. They are currently listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

“It’s going to be hard to see these guys go,” says Kathryn Sippel, curator of collections at Binder Park Zoo. “We have cared for them since birth, watched them grow and develop personalities. To see the dynamics of their pack evolve has been a rare and fascinating experience. We are fortunate to be the only accredited zoo in the state to have this incredibly unique species and we know that they are a guest favorite.” Sippel said, “But the time has come for them to move on, create their own pack and contribute to the conservation of their species.”

The Binder Park Zoo litter was fathered by an African painted dog named Verizon. Born in 2007 at the Bronx Zoo, Verizon came to Binder Park Zoo in 2012. He sired 11 pups in his 11th year – his only litter. He died in 2019 at age 12. Ghost was born in the United Kingdom in 2014 and later transferred to the Houston Zoo.  She arrived at Binder Park Zoo in 2017 on a breeding recommendation. Both Verizon and Ghost’s genetics are under-represented in the North American gene pool making their progeny genetically valuable. The eleven pups received their names in a special fund-raising effort where individual donors made a generous donation to name a pup. The names become part of their permanent record and remain with them regardless of where they go.

The remaining painted dogs at the zoo will be separated into two groups. Ghost, now past optimal breeding age will be spayed and live in a group with her male offspring. The four females will form their own pack and the two groups will rotate on exhibit. This measure is a plan that best positions the zoo for future breeding opportunities within the SPP program.

Binder Park Zoo has had African painted dogs in their collection since 1998.  The zoo opened a new painted dog habitat in Wild Africa in 2017 funded by generous donations from Frankie, John and Anne Zanetti and the Santo, Maria, Frankie & John Zanetti Foundation in honor of Andrew Zanetti and Frankie Zanetti.

Houston Zoo is an accredited facility with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums located in Houston, Texas. Modo, Rafiki, Tamu and Wiki will travel by truck in special crates to the Houston Zoo this month.

About Binder Park Zoo

Binder Park Zoo is located in southwest Michigan and home to a diverse array of exotic and native animal species. The natural and spacious habitat design that blends animal habitats into the surrounding landscape is a 40-year hallmark of the zoo that respects animals and delights guests. Delivering the message of conservation through engaging programs and fun experiences lies at the heart of the zoo’s mission to Connect. Inspire. Conserve.  Connect people with nature.  Inspire them to conserve.

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