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Denver Zoo visitors will now notice a couple of new, young maned wolves in the Wolf Pack Woods exhibit. The two youngsters are now exploring the yard for the first time this weekend after arriving from other zoos. The energetic, red-haired pair is made up of male, Inigo, and female, Adrianna. Visitors can see them bounding about their area now, weather permitting.
Inigo comes from Texas' Abilene Zoo, where he was born in December 2011. Adrianna comes from Springfield, Missouri's Dickerson Park Zoo, but was born at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, near Glen Rose, Texas in February 2012. They both arrived at Denver Zoo this September and spent the last couple months behind-the-scenes clearing a mandatory quarantine period, getting to know their new home and each other. The pair came to Denver Zoo as part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. So far zookeepers say they get along very well.
Maned wolves resemble red foxes with long legs. Despite their reddish coloring and general appearance they are not related to foxes and despite their name, they are not members of the wolf family. The maned wolf is the largest wild dog of South America. Standing about three feet tall at the shoulder, their long legs enable them to see above the tall grass – an adaptation that helps them hunt for food and avoid predators.
The dogs have a variety of ways to communicate. They will raise the long, darker fur on their shoulders and neck when they sense danger. The erect mane gives the impression of greater size to intimidate any predator. They don't howl, but rather bark, growl or whine depending on the situation. What guests may notice first, though is their aroma. The maned wolf's urine has a strong, distinctive smell, similar to skunk spray. Like many animals, they use urine to mark the boundaries of their territory. Zoo visitors often smell the strong odor before they can see a maned wolf.
Maned wolves live in the South American grasslands and scrub forests of Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay, eastern Bolivia and southeastern Peru. With a wild population estimated at less than 23,600 individuals, maned wolves are classified as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Primary threats to their survival come from habitat loss for agriculture and ranching. Poultry farmers kill the wolves because they sometimes prey on chickens. Humans will also sometimes hunt maned wolves for food and for their body parts, which are believed to have magical powers.