The newest arrivals at the Dallas Zoo are a species that hasn't called the zoo home in 57 years.
Three African painted dogs will inhabit a space in the zoo's Giants of the Savanna section starting this week, zoo officials said.
An 8-year-old female named Ola, who came from the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois, entered the habitat Wednesday, while a pair of 2-year-old brothers named Jata and Mzingo, will join her by the end of the week. Jata and Mzingo came from The Wilds, a private, nonprofit safari park managed by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
"This is one of the most delicate introductions we've ever done because African painted dogs have such an intricate social network. We have to ensure there is little disruption to their hierarchy," said Keith Zdrojewski, Dallas Zoo's Curator of Carnivores and Primates. "Ola will naturally assume the alpha female role, and one of the brothers will need to step up to the alpha male role. We're excited to watch this pack grow and bond together – they're going to be amazing ambassadors for their endangered species."
The zoo said African painted dogs are one of the world's most endangered carnivores, with fewer than 6,000 of them left in parts of southern and eastern Africa. Their numbers continue to dwindle due to disease, habitat loss and shootings by ranchers trying to protect their livestock.
They are not wolves or dogs, and instead belong to unique species of which they are the only member, the zoo said. African painted dogs live and hunt in packs and can pursue their prey for miles without getting tired.
"African painted dogs are an incredibly intelligent, fascinating species and we know our guests are going to fall in love with these pack animals," said Harrison Edell, Dallas Zoo's Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Conservation. "As Africa's most successful hunters, they're also very nurturing – they work together for the welfare of the whole pack and care for the young and the ill, so no member is left behind."
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The three African painted dogs will make their public debut Monday in the habitat formerly occupied by cheetahs -- next to the lions -- the zoo said.