The Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana welcomed and officially introduced three new African Painted Dog pups to their animal family on December 13, Wednesday.

In a news release, Potawatomi Zoo revealed that the three pups were born at the Zoo on September 28, 2023.

The pups, currently identified as Blue, Red, and Orange for the colors the staff have used to identify them since birth, were born to mother Bleu and father Maurice.

The Zoo has been tracking Bleu’s pregnancy via remote cameras and were able to watch the birth of the pups.

Originally, Bleu gave birth to eight puppies, but five of them didn’t survive, which the Zoo notes as something common with baby animals.

The pups are only a few months old but the Zoo shared that they had an “unusual and challenging start to life”.

This is because within 12 hours of the puppies’ birth, the Zoo’s Animal Care team could tell that the pack (which included Bleu’s sister, Colby) would not be able to successfully raise the puppies.

Unlike first-time mom Pele, the African Painted Dog from the OKC Zoo that also recently gave birth to six African Painted Dog pups, Bleu was not doing a great job at taking care and nursing her pups.

According to the Zoo, Bleu was an in inexperienced mother and “was not caring for her pups the way she should have, and Maurice was following her lead.”

That’s when the Zoo’s animal care staff consulted the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP), a group of zoo professionals, on how to best handle the situation and make sure the pups grow up healthy.

Potawatomi Zoo said, “in zoos, animal care staff try to remain as hands-off as possible to ensure that the painted dog pack is able to raise their litter of pups.”

However, since the pack isn’t cable of raising the pups, the Zoo had to make the difficult decision to intervene and hand-raise the litter of puppies.

But since it’s important for the pups to be raised in a canine social structure, the African Painted Dog SSP suggested finding a surrogate domestic dog to nurse the pups instead of hand-raising them.

And that’s when the Zoo found Kassy! A Golden Retriever who had a new litter of puppies herself and therefore, had milk to share with the African Painted Dog pups.

The Zoo reveals that Kassy arrived with her puppies the day after the African Painted dog pups were born.

Potawatomi Zoo wrote, “Kassy immediately accepted the painted dog puppies and began to nurse and care for them like they were her own.”

The Zoo said nursing the pups over the first four weeks of their life came with difficulties. They said that even with Kassy and the animal care staff’s dedication, some of the pups didn’t survive.

Originally, the Zoo wanted to reintegrate the three remaining puppies with Bleu, Maurice and Colby. But they showed no signs of positive interest in the puppies.

Right now, the Zoo is working hard to build a home for the puppies next to the adult African Painted dogs so they can learn how to behave like painted dogs.

The Zoo wrote, “It has been an emotionally exhausting and challenging journey for the team, but it is the Zoo’s mission to work toward the preservation of wild species. Sometimes the journey is smooth and sometimes it takes extraordinary measures.”

“These three healthy, active pups are just the start of this story, and the Zoo hopes to share more positive updates of their milestones in the future,” they continued.

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