OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is celebrating the arrival of eight African wild dog pups born Sunday evening, October 4 to mom Xena.

The pups’ dad is unknown. Since their births, Zoo officials said the pups have remained in their den away from public view until recently to venture outside for short periods of time during feeding.

“Mom Xena has been taking excellent care of her pups since day one,” said Jaimee Flinchbaugh, animal supervisor. “The pups have primarily been nursing but recently started eating some meat on their own. They are developing their initial tan and yellow coloring, and look healthy.”

Because Xena was an unproven mother, the Zoo’s animal care team monitored her via cameras in the dog den to be ready to intervene if necessary. However, officials said Xena demonstrated immediate care and protection for her newborns, and has slowly allowed the males of the pack to interact and play with the pups.

Xena’s last litter of three pups was born at the Zoo in November 2014 and were raised by a surrogate golden retriever until they were weaned. Today, those wild dog pups (Ayana, Maji and Zahra) are healthy and thriving.

The Zoo’s animal care team will conduct the new pups’ wellness exams after they are at least six weeks old. Their genders will be determined at that time. The pups will continue to have access to their den as well as the outside yards in their habitat on Wild Dog Row.

African wild dogs, also known as painted dogs, are known for their unique coat markings of yellow, black, brown, white and tan. They have large round ears, highly specialized shearing teeth and only four toes per foot. Wild dogs can grow to weigh up to 80 pounds. Normal gestation for African wild dogs ranges from 69 to 72 days. African wild dogs are critically endangered. Research suggests only between 5,000 and 7,500 free-ranging wild dogs exist in isolated populations of central, northeast and southern Africa.