ASHEBORO, NC (WNCN) – The North Carolina Zoo on Friday morning made a big announcement – five critically-endangered American red wolves have been born as part of their breeding program.
The five new pups – three males and two females – were born on April 21. The pups and their mother are all healthy, officials said.
According to the Zoo, there are only 15-20 red wolves found in the wild and they’re all located in eastern North Carolina.
Red wolves “are the most endangered canid in the world,” according to the Zoo’s press release.
We’re thrilled to announce the birth of 5 American red wolves as part of our red wolf breeding program! Born April 21st, the pups & their mother are all healthy & doing well.
With only 15-20 red wolves in the wild, only in NC, they’re the most endangered canid in the world. pic.twitter.com/SoUqRj47LV
— North Carolina Zoo (@NCZoo) May 8, 2020
The pups were all named after plants found in the state.
The male pups are named Oak for the Appalachian oak, Cedar for the red cedar, and Sage for the azure sage. The females are named Lily for the Carolina lily and Aster for the piedmont Aster. Their parents are named Piglet and Jewell. The Zoo said this is the first litter for the couple.
The five newest pups bring the total number of red wolves in the Zoo’s breeding program to 25. The North Carolina Zoo’s pack is the second-largest in the country behind the pack at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, the release said.
Right now, the “pups are being kept in a quiet, non-public viewing area of the Zoo and have minimal contact with staff and keepers. This allows their mother to raise the pups with the least amount of stress in a natural habitat,” the Zoo said.
“Congratulations to the North Carolina Zoo for playing an essential part toward helping this critically endangered species recover,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “It’s yet another example of the Zoo doing amazing work to conserve wildlife and wild places.”
Red wolves were nearly driven to extinction during the late 1960s before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started a conservation effort to save the species, according to the release.