A litter of four red wolf pups born in April has been living in ZooTampa at Lowry Park as they would in the wild, the zoo said in a press release. The young pups, who have been a hit with visitors, do have some modern-day conveniences though, such as vaccinations and weight checks, which the zoo carried out last week for the first time.
The pups were born to Yona in a natural den she had dug. A newly designed habitat enabled guests to share the experience as the pups grew and emerged from their den.
"They’re all in great condition and progressing really, really well," said Chris Massaro, a general curator at ZooTampa. He added that the red wolves are best seen early in the morning and late at night before the park closes.
All four pups are named after locations in Florida. The males are named Conner, after the Conner Preserve; Yulee and Reddington, and the female, Boca, is named after Boca Raton.
Red wolves are native to Florida and are the most critically endangered wolf species in the world, with only 200 red wolves remaining in zoos and reintroduction areas.
According to Defenders of Wildlife, a national conservation organization, "A recent global study found that the red wolf has lost 99.7 percent of its historical territory—more than any other large carnivore. What remains of its historical range is 1.7 million acres of private and public land in Eastern North Carolina. This matrix of agricultural fields, pine plantations, pocosin wetlands, and forests, provides sufficient connectivity and prey for the time being, but is inadequate for the long-term sustainability of red wolves."
ZooTampa says red wolves were hunted to near extinction by ranchers looking to protect livestock. As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, the zoo says it is hoping to ensure the red wolf population can live on despite the threats its relatives in the wild endure.
“The birth of these red wolf pups represents a significant milestone for this species,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, the Zoo’s Chief Zoological Officer. “The success of this litter is encouraging and represents hope for the future of these incredible animals. Yona is caring for her pups in public view, which shows how comfortable and well cared for she feels.”
ZooTampa at Lowry Park is managed by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent charitable organization that is committed to conservation, education, recreation, and research. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is listed as one of the “Top 25 Zoos in the U.S” by TripAdvisor.