This is the first time that three litters of red wolf pups were born in a single spring in the zoo.
The North Carolina Zoo recently announced the birth of three litters of the critically endangered American red wolves. In total, 12 pups were born over three days from April 28 to April 30. The zoo added that the pups and their mothers were doing well. The species is critically endangered since there are less than two dozens in the wild.
"Congratulations to the North Carolina Zoo for playing an essential part in the survival of this critically endangered species," said Secretary Reid Wilson, N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, in a press release, according to WRAL. "These births are important because many of our wolves, once matured, have been moved to other breeding packs to continue to help bring this species back from near extinction. Our hope is that more and more red wolves can soon be placed into the wild," he added.
According to the North Carolina Zoo, there are only 15 to 20 red wolves in the wild, and all of them are in eastern North Carolina. The zoo currently has 36 red wolves, which is the second largest pack in the United States after Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.
In 2020, the North Carolina zoo had welcomed five red wolf puppies to the pack.
The births of the litters came with a few firsts. Firstly, it was the first time that three litters were born in one spring in the zoo, writes ABC 11. Secondly, one of the litters was born in a public habitat. The pups will probably be visible starting mid-June when they start moving about more freely and step outside of the den. The wolf family will be moved to a non-public breeding area when the pups are older and weaned from their mother.
The other two litters were born in a non-public breeding area.
The wolves used to be common in the southeastern United States, but were driven to near extinction during the late 1960s, the zoo said. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an "aggressive conservation effort" - the American Red Wolf Recovery Program - to protect the remaining wolves and grow their numbers.
"The pups are being kept in a quiet, non-public viewing area of the Zoo and have minimal contact with staff and keepers," the Zoo said in a release. "This allows their mother to raise the pups with the least amount of stress in a natural habitat."
In June 2018, the Fish and Wildlife Service had proposed that landowners should be allowed to shoot the red wolves that venture into their property but the policy was struck down in court in November 2018. It is illegal to kill these endangered animals and yet, gunshot wounds have been the main reason for their numbers dwindling, as per National Geographic.
Cover image source: North Carolina Zoo/ Instagram