Greg Rasmussen, who has spent 25 years working to preserve, protect and study African painted dogs, returned to the Endangered Wolf Center Monday night to chat about painted dogs with the Center’s members and supporters.
Rasmussen, who founded Painted Dog Conservation project in Zimbabwe, was the first guest in the Center’s 2014 Speaker Series. This was his fourth appearance Speaker Series overall.
The Endangered Wolf Center has four African painted dogs and is the only area facility where they live. The St. Louis Zoo will open an African painted dog exhibit later this year.
Rasmussen shared some facts about painted dogs with the audience:
- About 5,000 remain alive in the wild in sub-Sahara Africa.
- There’s never been a case of a painted dog attacking or killing a human being.
- African painted dogs, originally named tricolored dogs, were renamed wild dogs by opponents as a means of justifying their slaughter.
- Their language is probably equal to that of a dolphin, particularly if you factor in body language.
- The number of pups a female produces is directly proportional to the size of the pack.
- Every single dog in a pack gets a job according to their specialty; there’s no ranking.
Rasmussen says education efforts in Zimbabwe have gradually turned the people there into supporters of the dogs’ survival.
Now, Rasmussen says, he is focusing on ensuring that there’s a new generation of young scientists and young researchers to serve as conservationists. He is spearheading the construction of a conservation ecology center that will partner Zimbabweans with university students serving internships from abroad. His goal is to raise $100,000 over the next two years for the new facility.
Another project is to have a company sponsor a live-streaming camera showing African painted dogs in the wild. He admits that the popularity of such a site might cause an increase in disruptive safari tourism geared at seeing the dogs up-close.
Rasmussen flew into St. Louis at 4:30 a.m. Monday, visited with Endangered Wolf Center staff members, visited St. Louis Zoo staff, spoke at the Center’s Speaker Series and then flew out of St. Louis at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
His whirlwind tour of the United States saw him in San Francisco earlier Monday and in Washington later on Tuesday.
From April 29 to May 2, the Chicago Zoological Society will host an international African Painted Dog conference at the Brookfield Zoo. Rasmussen will be the keynote speaker.