Bastian Pet Toys/K9X Ball to Support Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute
Hi All! Tom here! Bastian gave me control of the keyboard because he wanted me to pass on some exciting news! Bastian Pet Toys will be supporting the Saint Louis Zoo Wild Care Institute’s Center for Conservation of Carnivores in Africa! From our beginning, we have been saving $0.50 from every K9X Ball sold. Now, we have a home for it! The Saint Louis Zoo Wild Care Institute’s Center for Conservation of Carnivores in Africa works to protect large predatory animals such as cheetahs, lions, and, of course, painted dogs. With the news these days talking about removing protections from endangered species in Zimbabwe and Zambia, these animals need our help more than ever! We’re thrilled to support this outstanding organization who works tirelessly to defend several endangered carnivores! With that in mind, some of you may be wondering… what is a painted dog and why do they need our help?
African Painted Dogs (Lycaon pictus) are one of the few wild dog species left in the world. Painted dogs have long slim legs, large, rounded ears and a beautifully mottled coat of brown, black, white, red and yellow. The hair coloration is highly variable and unique to each individual. The muzzle is black and the tip of the tail is white. They can be found living in the wide open plains or the forests of sub-Sahara Africa, but they are very hard to find. Unfortunately, due to hunting, habitat loss, and disease, these amazing dogs are losing out. The counts of African painted dogs vary, but estimates state that only 3000-7000 remain in the wild with only a couple hundred in captivity. The Saint Louis Zoo houses a pack of 5 African painted dogs at the River’s Edge Exhibit. You can even “adopt” a dog on the zoo website!
So, who are these animals? Well, African painted dogs are extremely social pack animals. Surprisingly, they are the only known dogs to have four toes per foot instead of five. While they are about the size of a medium to large household dog, their jaws set them apart. Their teeth are primed with specialized molars for shearing meat. While the preferred action of an American pet dog is hunting mostly smaller animals, the painted dogs have the ability to take down large antelopes such as impala or even wildebeests. They can do this because they hunt in large packs and much like Kenya’s Olympic Team, they are the best of the marathon runners and tire out their prey. Extremely social, painted dogs hunt in packs in sizes varying between 6 and 20, sometimes even more! They are highly intelligent and have even been observed in Botswana voting as a pack as to whether or not to head out for a hunt based on how many dogs make a sneezing noise. They are also altruistic. While after a successful hunt, most animals ensure they eat first, Painted dogs, actually allow the ill and young pups to feed first.
Their ability to hunt large animals has also contributed to their downfall. As agriculture grows in Africa, the native populations raise livestock such as goats, cattle, and chicken. When livestock disappear, often fingers are pointed immediately to the local wildlife. Despite World Wildlife Fund studies pointing to the contrary, painted dogs often take the blame, even despite their incredibly low numbers. The WWF continues to work to educate the native populations that the wild dogs are often not the culprits. During my time in Tanzania, we learned quite a bit about the relationship between wildlife and people. In fact, the native Maasai tribesmen of Tanzania are well known to the wildlife. Their famous red checkered cloth is highly visible in the open plains of the Ngorongoro and Tarangire. Lions, hyena, leopards, and cheetah alike have learned to avoid the livestock of the Maasai for fear of the tip of the spear. In return, the Maasai help save the wildlife of Tanzania by operating land such as the land surrounding Tarangire National Park. Their presence deters poaching and their relationship with park rangers allows the Maasai to report poachers and help the rangers do their jobs! In turn, this helps all wildlife in these regions including elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and carnivorous animals such as cheetahs, lions, and painted dogs.
We have a long way to go for the world to recognize that almost every major species of animal in Africa is under the threat of extinction. Fortunately, some great organizations are emerging to help. That’s why Bastian Pet Toys is proud to assist by donating $0.50 from K9X Balls purchased to the Saint Louis Zoo Wild Care Institute’s Center for Conservation of Carnivores of Africa!
For more information on the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute, visit: https://www.stlzoo.org/conservation/wildcare-institute/