Birthing season is off to a fast start at the Buffalo Zoo, with the arrival of its first maned wolf pup and baby Mexican beaded lizard.
Flint, a fuzzy ball of gray fur who will be a reddish color in adulthood, was born Dec. 26 -- the result of a three-year effort to breed his parents, Olive and Scottie, as part of the global species survival plan for maned wolves.
Like many animals, the maned wolf is highly endangered on its home turf -- the vast, grassy pampas east of the Andes Mountains in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia -- primarily because cattle ranching is taking over the habitat. No more than a few hundred remain in the wild.
So zoos have been given the task of growing and diversifying the captive population. There are currently 77 adult animals in 22 U.S. zoos and another 139 in other zoos around the world. Domestic zoos are being asked by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association to try for 125 adults within three years.
Because Olive has not shown a healthy maternal interest, her pup is being hand-reared by keepers. Except for familiarizing visits with his parents, Flint is confined to a pen in the hyena holding area, where he is fed mashed puppy chow.
The adult maned wolf, which looks nothing like its big North American cousin, is red with a bushy tail, large pointed ears and black facial mask and moves on long legs that evolved to help it see over the tall grasses of the pampas, where it feeds on small mammals and vegetables. Hence the nickname "fox on stilts."
The baby Mexican beaded lizard, hatched Feb. 5, represents another advance for species survival and for the Reptile House, which over the past year has achieved first-time hatchings of five Anderson's newts and a black tree monitor.
The hatching is part of a population management plan that will help maintain a stable population of beaded lizards in zoos and aquariums.