Visitor & Tickets
Animals & Exhibits
Learning Adventures
King cobra habitat: The king cobra is able to adapt to a wide variety of habitats including rainforests, savannas, bamboo thickets, and mangrove swamps. read more >
Home > Animal & Exhibits

Species Survival Plan®

What is an Species Survival Plan®?
According to Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a Species Survival Plan® (SSP) is a cooperative population management and conservation program that manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. The program began in 1981 and currently covers 161 individual species of endangered animals.

African Painted Dog, Species Survival Plan
In October 1991, a SSP was developed to provide management of captive populations of African painted dogs by implementing guidelines and regulations for housing and breeding the African painted dog in captivity and to provide support to those organizations in Africa working to stabilize the existing populations.

The African painted dog Species Survival Plan®, currently coordinated by Mike Quick of the Sedgwick County Zoo, focuses on maintaining as much genetic diversity as possible within the captive population by carefully monitoring breeding. Due to space constraints within SSP zoos it is essential that we manage the breeding and moves recommended with a strategy to maintain packs of wild dogs in our institutions. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the management group to move same sex siblings as packs rather than individuals whenever possible.

The mission of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums's African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan program is to help ensure the survival of African Painted Dogs.

What is the mission of the African Painted Dogs Species Survival Plan?
The mission of any Species Survival Plan, according to the AZA, is to help ensure the survival of selected wildlife species by managing breeding, integrating conservation strategies, increasing public awareness, conducting basic and applied research, training wildlife and zoo professionals, developing and testing various technology relevant to field conservation, and reintroducing captive bred wildlife.

The African Painted Dogs SSP will implement a combination of the following strategies:

  • Organizing scientifically-controlled managed breeding programs for selected wildlife as a hedge against extinction.
  • Cooperating with other institutions and agencies to ensure integrated conservation strategies.
  • Increasing public awareness of wildlife conservation issues, including development and implementation of education strategies at AZA-member institutions and in the field.
  • Conducting basic and applied research to contribute to our knowledge of various species.
  • Training wildlife and zoo professionals.
  • Developing and test various technologies relevant to field conservation.
  • Reintroducing captive-bred wildlife into restored or secure habitat as appropriate and necessary.

African Painted Dog SSP Action Plans


  • Assisted Reproduction - development of techniques for artificial insemination and gamete transfer.
  • Genome Banking - determine a location for banking, international coordination with other captive populations and wild populations and establishment of a database of physiologic normals and disease/disease exposure.
  • Contraception - Current recommendation, continue development of alternative contraceptive that are safe, reversible and with less side effects.
  • Reproductive Success - study the factors associated with breeding success
  • Endocrine/Physiological Studies - understand the physiological mechanisms that determine breeding success and add to the baseline species database.

Space Issues

  • Group Size - encourage studies that improve our ability to maintain larger social groups in captivity. The ability to maintain larger social groups in captivity could increase display value, space utilization and contribute to a more enriched environment for the animals.
  • Group Dynamics - develop strategies for multi-generational packs and/or single sex groups management of larger social groups.

Animal Welfare Issues

  • Animal Care Standards - develop, maintain and provide upon request minimum animal care standards


  • Manual/Training Materials - publish and distribute husbandry manual and other training opportunities, i.e. video.
  • Encourage informational exchange between institutions.
  • Behavioral Assessment - Increase the fundamental knowledge of the influences of behavior and husbandry or environmental factors on management
  • Introduction/Reintroduction - Identify the key factors influencing introduction/reintroduction success
  • Enrichment - Compile institutional enrichment strategies
  • Operant Conditioning - Compile training behaviors that are currently being used for medical and behavioral management
  • Current Issues of Concern - keep institutional representatives apprised of current management issues.
  • Managing Parturition - study the current practices to develop a model for successful pack rearing of pups. 


  • Vaccine Trials - contribute to development of vaccines that promote health of wild dog populations.
  • Infectious Diseases - contribute to studies that evaluate wild dog diseases
  • Pathology Review - develop necropsy protocols and determine common causes of death within the captive population
  • Genetic Review - Provide assistance to identify factors associated with relatedness in the wild dog population

Field Conservation

  • Range Country Surveys - Support census surveys in range countries.
  • Wild Dog/People Conflict Resolution - provide aid and support for programs
  • Continuous Monitoring Programs - provide aid and support for programs
  • Development of Field Technologies - provide opportunities within the captive population for development of field technologies.

Development Public Relations/Education/Marketing

  • Support and Develop In-Situ and Ex-Situ Education Programs
  • Develop Public Relations Strategy
  • Develop Marketing Strategy

As this animal nears extinction we explore their ecological significance:
As a carnivore, African painted dogs 'weed out' sick or injured grazing animals. They also create competition with other carnivores making sure the best predators survive.

How does the presence of African painted dogs affect humans?
Many believe that African painted dogs pose a threat to livestock, however, according to studies, African painted dogs rarely attack livestock.

Do humans benefit from ecological balance provided by African painted dogs?
Of course we do! It may not always be obvious but every day we live, we depend heavily on the balance of ecology for food, clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe. Remember, we are simply animals too!

How have humans contributed to the decline of the African painted dog population?

  • Domestic dogs (introduced by humans) have brought disease to African painted dogs. These diseases include: Rabies, Distemper, Parvo virus, Adenovirus or Infections Hepatitus, Coronavirus, Herpesvirus, etc. [Some projects are advocating vaccinations for the African painted dog populations to protect them from these diseases]
  • Traffic-an increasing number of African painted dogs are injured or killed by road traffic.
  • Direct persecution- to protect livestock, eliminate predators of wild ungulates so that humans have a better selection to hunt from, and hunting for sport.
  • Habitat Destruction- The biggest, most important, horribly devastating way in which humans negatively influence not only African painted dogs but all wildlife species!

 What other factors contribute to the population decline?

  • Competition with other larger carnivores.
  • Limited food supply.
  • Predation by lions and occasionally hyenas.

We are not the same….Just take a look!!


African painted dogs are commonly mistaken for hyenas but in fact there are many differences, both physically and behaviorally.

Taxonomic Classification
Hyenas are NOT dogs!! Hyenas are closer related to mongooses and cats.

Care of Young
Similar to African painted dogs, hyenas give birth in a communal den, however there is no communal care for the pups. Not even the fathers take a role in caring for the pups. Litter sizes in hyenas are very small, consisting of 1-4 pups, compared to that of the African painted dog with an average of 6-9 pups. African painted dog pups are born helpless where the hyena pups are born with their eyes open and teeth!

Hyenas reach sexual maturity later.

Hyenas and African painted dogs were once found throughout the savannah regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Human population and habitat loss has shrunk the ranges of both species. African painted dogs are now found only in a few small areas in east and southern Africa. Hyenas are much more widespread.

Social Interaction
Live in groups and hunt cooperatively. Communicate vocally. We already know that African painted dogs live in packs of approximately 6-20 and are considered cooperative hunters. Hyenas live in clans. A clan, which is separated into packs, can contain up to 80 individuals! Although hyenas are also considered cooperative hunters, they are competitive in nature and unlike African painted dogs will fight within the clan for food or dominance.

Social Structure or Hierarchy
Female dominance within groups: The core of the clan is comprised of related females forming a hierarchy. In fact the instinctive desire for dominance is so strong in hyenas that newborn pups will fight immediately after birth to gain dominance and right to food. It is estimated that 1 in 4 hyena pups die within the first month due to sibling fighting.

Ecological Interaction
Hyenas are significantly more aggressive than African painted dogs. Hyenas have even been known to confront lions: not for food, but to fight.

Learn More About Field Conservation

Sedgwick County Zoo African Painted Dog Puppies Receiving Care Through Zoo Staff and Surrogate Mother 10-31-2013

On the evening of October 31 Mica, 4 year-old African painted dog, gave birth. At the time of the birth Mica showed normal maternal behaviors but did not appear to be producing milk. On the morning of November 1, the surviving puppies were removed for evaluation and supportive care while Mica was examined, under anesthesia, to verify that she was not producing milk.

Once it was determined that Mica was not producing milk the decision was made to remove the puppies from the nest box. Zoo Staff began round the clock care and initiated a call to animal shelters, humane society and dog rescues for a lactating domestic dog that was close to weaning her puppies that could be used as a surrogate. Surrogate domestic dogs have been used successfully by other AZA zoos to foster other wild canine species, including African painted dogs.

On Sunday, November 3 a surrogate was found and Sparkles, a pit bull, began her role as a surrogate mother to the the puppies. Sparkles has been a great surrogate mom! As a surrogate, Sparkles is providing a continual canine maternal presence that Zoo staff could not provide. This presence offers comfort and sustenance that the puppies need to thrive.We are so thankful for her great care and attentiveness with the pups.

We are hopeful that when they reach an age appropriate for socialization we will be able to successfully reintroduce the puppies to their parents. Until then the puppies will remain in veterinary intensive care.

Species Survival Plan Coordinator:   Mike Quick
Sedgwick County Zoo
5555 Zoo Blvd
Wichita, KS 67212
Studbook Keeper:   Stephanie Rhodes
Chicago Zoological Society - Brookfield Zoo
3300 Golf Rd
Brookfield, IL 60513
Special Project Update - May 2014 download pdf
Hours of Operation
Summer8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(March – October)
Winter10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(November – February)
*The Zoo will be closed one day only, September 8, 2018 to facilitate the preparation of the annual Zoo fundraiser, Zoobilee.