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Manedwolf.gif (105478 bytes)‘The Carnivores’ are a related group of animals which include all of the cats, large and small, the bears, the dog family (which includes jackals, coyotes, foxes, and wolves) the raccoon family (which includes the pandas even though these are not carnivorous animals), the weasel family, the civet family (which includes genets, meerkats and mongooses), and the hyaenas.

The largest member of the dog family are the wolves, and the commonest species, the grey wolf, can often be seen in zoos. Up to thirty two subspecies or races of the grey wolf have been described, and it is likely that most zoo wolves are something of a mixture of the various races.  Wolves live in packs and ought really to be kept in packs in captivity. Good zoos, like Port Lympne Zoo in Kent, the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland will have a wolf wood, plenty of space, a healthy group of animals, and the wolves will look well and breed well. This requirement does mean that any zoo contemplating keeping wolves really needs to have a good sized wood to begin with; either that or they need to plant a wood, which does mean planning for the wolves rather a long time in advance.

Maned wolves are not wolves at all, and they look, as one zoo describes them, like ‘a red fox on stilts’. They are South America’s largest member of the dog family, and are little known, and rarely seen. Their wild population is now vulnerable, and the captive population is frail. Eighty percent of captive and wild maned wolves suffer from a genetic disease, eystinuria, and in addition they are susceptible to the common diseases of domestic dogs. Several zoos now keep them, and zoos like the Pretoria Zoo have successfully bred them. This is a species that is secretive, and you may have to be patient to see them. They will need careful management in zoos if their numbers are to grow.

African hunting dogs are no relation to domestic dogs, despite their name and appearance. They are one of the most critically threatened species of carnivore, and can breed well in zoos, although not many zoos yet keep them.

Other, smaller carnivores in zoos vary from the familiar, like raccoons, otters, and mongooses, to the less familiar red pandas, coatis, martens, and honey badgers, and the practically unknown cacomistles, kinkajous, linsangs, zorillas, and wolverines. They are often very entertaining animals in zoos, and although few have any particular conservation value, many are now fairly self sustaining in captivity.


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Editor: Jon Clarke    Research: John and Sue Ironmonger, Ray Heaton, and the readers of goodzoos.com   Illustrations by G.L.Grandy. Thanks to John Ironmonger for the original idea of GoodZoos.com.

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