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African Wild Dogs Jesse and Taco Arrive at Denver Zoo to Form "Breeding Pack"

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The Denver Zoo has reportedly done a bang-up job of breeding and managing African wild dogs. According to the zoo, 28 puppies have been born there since it began housing the species in 2001. And the baby boom could continue thanks to the recent acquisition of two four-year-old brothers who, it's worth noting, have excellent names: Jesse and Taco.

The zoo hopes they'll form a new "breeding pack" with two-year-old sisters Tilly and Cheza. If it means more effing adorable and stripe-y big-eared baby dogs, we do too.

Here's more about Jesse and Taco, courtesy of the Denver Zoo:

The brothers were born in January 2011 at Pittsburgh Zoo. They came to Denver Zoo from the Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, Kansas, in January through a recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals.

The largest of Africa’s canine species, full-grown African wild dogs weigh between forty and sixty pounds and stand thirty inches tall at the shoulder. The slim, long-legged dogs have large, round ears, which not only provide excellent hearing for hunting prey but also cool them off in the hot African climate. Each African wild dog has its own unique markings of yellow, black, brown and white. Because of this, they are alternately called painted dogs. In fact, their scientific name of Lycaon pictus means “painted wolf-like animal” in Latin

In addition to their long legs, large lungs provide the dogs with tremendous endurance. They can run at speeds of around 37 miles per hour for more than three miles while pursuing prey. Cooperative pack hunting also increases their success rate, estimated at 70 to 90 percent, and enables them to bring down animals five times their size.

African wild dogs are native to the open woodlands and plains of sub-Saharan Africa. With a wild population estimated at less than 5,000 individuals, African wild dogs are classified as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their numbers have been reduced by habitat loss, direct persecution and disease. They may contract diseases such as distemper or rabies from domestic dogs. Despite protective laws, wild dogs are still killed by herders to protect domestic livestock.

Denver Zoo conservation biologists also are working to conserve the species in Botswana. Their efforts include studying the species’ range and distribution, and building relationships with local ranchers to discourage them from killing the dogs when they venture onto their land. 

Watch a video of Jesse and Taco below.

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