TACOMA, Wash. — For now, these 8 brand new boys and girls mostly just sleep in a warm, huddled mass of fur.
The healthy red wolf pups, whelped over the weekend by mom Charlotte, have no idea how rare they are. But staff biologists at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium say the pups are making the future bright of this critically endangered species.
The aptly named head veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf gave the five girls and three boys neo-natal check-ups. She said they look and sound great.
Wearing gloves, the zookeepers carefully picked up each pup, weighed them, and photographed the white blaze on their chests for keepers to be able to tell them apart as they grow.
The births represent another success in an effort established at Point Defiance Zoo in 1973 to save the extremely fragile species from extinction. They are one of the most endangered species of wolf on the planet.
By the 1970s, only 14 red wolves remained in the wild. In 1980, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the red wolf biologically extinct. This is the second litter of the critically endangered species born at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium over the last seven years.
Each of the pups will eventually play a role in increasing the population of red wolves in the zoo with the hope of reintroducing some to the wild.
In the meantime, visitors to the zoo will be able to see the wolf pups grow up.
"They're going to see a large family group," says Dr. Wolf. "Eventually they're going to be coming out of the den, being playful and active. It's a really rare opportunity for people to see this critically endangered species."