World’s first dog-fox at centre of government investigation

The dogxim animal died at a zoo in Brazil but there is scant detail about the circumstances
The dogxim animal died at a zoo in Brazil but there is scant detail about the circumstances - Flavia Ferrari

The mysterious death of the world’s first dog-fox hybrid in Brazil is at the centre of a government investigation after keepers of the animal failed to report the incident.

It is believed the zoo did not alert officials to the unique animal’s death. It is also still unknown exactly when and how it died.

The Pampas fox-dog hybrid had been living at the São Braz conservation centre since November 2021. The animal was moved there following treatment for injuries sustained after being hit by a car.

But when scientists who studied and cared for the so-called dogxim asked for photographs of the creature in August, they were told it had died six months earlier.

The Secretariat of Environment and Infrastructure in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil, where the animal was found, treated and housed, has now launched an official investigation.

No autopsy is thought to have taken place.

“We are very sad about her death, especially because we do not have the answers about the exact date and the cause of her death,” Dr Rafael Kretschmer, a cytogeneticist at the Universidade Federal de Pelotas, who ran the genetic analysis which determined the animal’s hybrid nature, told the Telegraph.

“We only discovered that she died because I called Mantenedouro São Braz to request some recent photos of the hybrid.

“They informed me that she died approximately six months ago. They did not answer me about the exact date and cause of her death.”

Flávia Ferrari, a conservationist who worked with the animal during her recovery before her move to São Braz, added: “When she left she was healthy, there were no indications of any health problems. Health check-ups were carried out periodically, including blood tests.”

One of a kind

The young female animal was the first recorded instance of a fox and dog breeding and the creature was of immense scientific interest.

Brazilian experts studied the animal and found it had 76 chromosomes, as well as a Pampas fox mother and domestic dog father.

Experts cared for the animal at the Preservas veterinary hospital of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, where she recovered fully before being moved to São Braz.

Because the animal is one of a kind there is no known life expectancy, but she likely had several years left to live. Both a Pampas fox and domestic dog can live in excess of 10 years.

Mantenedouro São Braz did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for the Brazilian government told the Telegraph: “The Secretariat of Environment and Infrastructure (Sema) investigates the death of a hybrid between wild graxaim and domestic dog, the target of scientific research which, since 2021, was under the care of the Mantenedouro de Fauna Silvestre São Braz, in Santa Maria, an enterprise registered and authorised by the State.

“Sema is investigating the circumstances of the animal’s death and informs that in the reports sent periodically by the entrepreneur, there was no communication to this department about the animal’s death.”