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All uphill for rare wolves 2 pups debut at zoo as breeding program overcomes obstacle

When it comes to mothering, Olive, a maned wolf at the Buffalo Zoo, is a slow learner. Her first pup, Flint, born in 2005, was hand-raised by keepers after she showed little maternal interest.

It has been the same story with Olive's second male offspring, Echo, who weighed just 14 ounces at birth Dec. 24. Mom again appeared clueless, so Echo was pulled from the maned wolf exhibit to be bottle-fed by keeper Chris Kieber.

This time Olive's indifference will benefit zoo visitors, because Echo has a playmate to romp with -- Kev, a male who arrived last week from the Louisville Zoo.

The pups made their public debut Tuesday -- tiny gray fuzzballs frolicking in their own enclosure next to Olive and Echo's father, Scottie, in the Americas Pavilion. They will be on view daily, weather permitting.

"The two were placed together for socialization purposes," said zoo spokeswoman Jennifer Fields.

Despite Olive's tendency to shirk her maternal responsibilities, the maned wolf breeding program -- like many of the zoo's conservation efforts, is moving in the right direction.

Three females arrived in 1996 to start Buffalo's collection of maned wolves, who turn a reddish color in adulthood and are highly endangered in their native habitat -- the grassy pampas east of the Andes Mountains in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Cattle ranching has taken over much of that vast expanse, reducing the wolf population to no more than a few hundred.

The Buffalo Zoo agreed to establish a breeding program as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' global species-survival plan. American zoos have a goal of producing 125 pups by next year.

Like Flint, who was sent earlier this year to White Oaks Conservation Center in Yulee, Fla., Echo and Kev eventually will move on to other facilities to become part of the diverse breeding effort.

The adult maned wolf, which looks nothing like its large, gray North American cousin, is red with a bushy tail, large pointed ears and black facial mask. Nicknamed the "fox on stilts," it 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.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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