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Critically Endangered Red Wolf Pups Born at North Carolina Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro celebrated the arrival of “not one but TWO litters” of the world’s most endangered wolf – the red wolf – in late April and early May.

A total of nine pups were born – three to parents Marsh and Roan, and six to Denali and May – the zoo announced on May 9.

Both litters were born as part of the American Red Wolf SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) Program, the zoo said. As all the puppies were potential candidates for release to the wild, they were being “housed in a private area to reduce their acclimation to humans” in order to give them “the best chance for survival in the wild,” according to the zoo.

The footage here shows the litter of six puppies receiving a 24-hour checkup to ensure they are healthy and hydrated, the zoo said. “They are checked for heart murmurs and a cleft palate to ensure they have the suckle reflex so they can nurse properly,” staff wrote. “Each pup is weighed, sexed, and identified by its white blaze chest patch. The veterinary staff checks the litters every two weeks to ensure everyone remains healthy,” they continued.

The red wolf, or canis rufus, used to be distributed across the southeastern and south-central United States, but its populations were decimated by the mid-20th century due to predator-control programs, loss of habitat, and hybridization with coyotes, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

According to IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, just 20 to 30 mature adult red wolves remain in the wild, and their numbers are decreasing.

The FWS said “about 15 to 17 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina as a nonessential experimental population, and approximately 235 red wolves are maintained in 49 Red Wolf SAFE facilities throughout the United States.” Credit: North Carolina Zoo via Storyful

Video transcript

- Come, pup.

- That's going to be 20--

- Do you want to put yours back and grab two?

- I know. Torture, I know, I know.

- Chris.

- No, cleft palate looks good. I know, mean man.

- He's hydrated, Chris.

- OK.

- You look good.

- Come, pup.

- That's going to be 20--

- You want to put yours back and grab two?

- I know. Torture, I know, I know.

- Chris.

- No, cleft palate looks good. I know, mean man.

- He's hydrated, Chris.

- OK.

- You look good.

- Oh, I'm so sorry.