African Painted Dog pack in Singapore Zoo expands with birth of 7 pups

Visitors can find the pups in their exhibit opposite the White Rhinoceros habitat along Wild Africa.

Benjamin Chew

Only drinks bubble tea with 100% sugar.

Published: 21 December 2022, 6:22 PM

The African Painted Dogs pack in the Singapore Zoo has expanded again with the birth of seven pups.

The Mandai Wildlife Group on Dec 12 posted a video on Facebook to share about the new additions to the pack, all of whom have yet to be named after their birth on Sep 22.

In response to a query made by Youthopia, a Mandai Wildlife Group spokesperson said that the litter consists of four male pups and three female pups.

It’s the second time that the pack has expanded in the Singapore Zoo, after the birth of four pups in October 2021.


African Painted Dogs can give birth to up to 18 pups, a record among canines. PHOTO CREDIT: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP


African Painted Dogs, which are endangered, have been part of the Singapore Zoo exhibits as early as 1986. The current adult pack of three males and three females arrived from South Africa back in 2019.

Unlike wolves, they are only distantly related to the domestic dog, and have four toes on their front foot while other canids have five.

In the wild, the African Painted Dogs face habitat degradation, infectious diseases and conflicts with humans in the wild. They were heavily hunted in the past as they were considered threats to livestock, and were not well-liked because of their disembowelment methods.

Meet our new African Painted Pups!

Meet the new additions to the pack at Singapore Zoo! Born in September this year, these African Painted Dog bbs know just how to have a good time. 🐕 #SingaporeZoo #AfricanPaintedDogs

Posted by Mandai Wildlife Reserve on Sunday, 11 December 2022

The exhibit in Singapore Zoo allows the dogs to showcase their natural pack behaviour in close proximity to guests, since they are highly social animals. Such social behaviour is displayed through sneezing, which is considered a form of communication for African Painted Dogs in the wild. 

As one of the more vocal canid species, African Painted Dogs often sneeze to make decisions on whether to hunt as a pack, and vocalise a lot when greeting each other, especially in the mornings.


The dogs also have distinctive “painted” patterns on the fur to help distinguish each pack member. PHOTO CREDIT: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP


The newborn pups were given the opportunity to interact with the rest of the pack as they grew and started to venture out of the nest box, which is important for their development, said the Mandai Wildlife Group. 

But behind such behaviours of these dogs lie one of the most complex social structures among all mammals.

An African Painted Dog pack consists of a matriarch and an alpha, and prioritises social etiquette over dominance or physical fitness in the hierarchy.

While rowdy and boisterous pups are more likely to grow up as alphas, the more reserved ones tend to become subordinate members of the pack. Only the alpha pair is allowed to breed in the pack, and the alphas must be able to show exemplary leadership qualities. 

Due to their leadership, almost no fights are observed within wild packs, which is a rare sight among other carnivores. 

In the wild, African Painted Dogs also prioritise the young, sick and old in their pack. They ensure the young and old are always fed first, and do so by regurgitating their food to both young and old members. 

This behaviour can also be observed within the family at Singapore Zoo.

Aside from their mother’s milk, the pups started to sample boneless meat when they were a month old and are fed by the adults with digested or partially digested meat through regurgitation. 

The Mandai Wildlife Group has also taken several measures to ensure the healthy development of the dogs.

 “A hands-off approach is key to dealing with such social species,” said a spokesperson. 

They added that African Painted Dogs often require privacy as they are very sensitive when it comes to their pups. To prevent any disturbances, the animal care team closely monitored the pups’ health and behaviour through CCTVs and recorded their vocalisations.

Mandai Wildlife Group also follows their dietary patterns in the wild by feeding the adults about 4kg of meat and bones every alternate day. 

To provide additional nourishment for the pups, the African painted dogs are also provided with an additional 5kg of chopped meat mixed with supplements on non-feeding days.

While most people may associate African Painted Dogs with grasslands, they are actually mostly found in open woodlands, which is reflected in the design of their exhibit. However, since the pups were born in Singapore, they have naturally acclimated to the local climate.

The African Painted Dog enclosure is designed to provide them with spots offering cover from rain and heat, such as a hut with a sand yard and pool, the Mandai Wildlife Group spokesperson elaborated.


The flora in the exhibit help keep the dogs stay physically and mentally stimulated and bond through smelling and scratching the vegetation, which also hones their coordination as a pack. PHOTO CREDIT: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP


Visitors can find the pups and the pack in their exhibit daily from 8.30am to 6pm. The exhibit is located opposite the White Rhinoceros habitat along Wild Africa.

They can also learn more about the dogs at the Keeper Talks held daily at 1.40pm in the Singapore Zoo.

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