CT’s Beardsley Zoo welcomes Red Wolf

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – The Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut is pleased to announce the newest addition to the Zoo family, an eight-year-old red wolf named Kawoni. Arriving at the Zoo in February 2020 before the Zoo was temporarily closed due to the pandemic, Kawoni spent her first weeks in quarantine, which is mandatory for all new arrivals. Once she was verified to be in excellent physical condition by the zoo’s on-site vet, Kawoni joined the zoo’s existing male red wolf, Peanut, in the red wolf habitat.

In the Cherokee language, Kawoni means “Moon Flower”. The May Full Moon appears this week and according to ancient traditions is known as the Flower Moon for the abundance of flowers this month.

Kawoni was born at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in May 2012 in Tacoma, Washington. She arrived from Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington, Illinois. When the zoo reopens, guests will be able to view Kawoni and Peanut between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. from their habitat next to the Wolf Cabin.

To see a red wolf in the wild today is one of nature’s rarest sights. According to the Wolf Conservation Center, there remains a single population in eastern North Carolina, consisting of fewer than 30 individuals. Kawoni’s transfer is part of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP), which has played a vital role in preserving this endangered species through carefully managed breeding. It is hoped that Kawoni and Peanut will breed to ensure the long-term sustainability of red wolves in human care.

Thirty years after the federal government reintroduced red wolves to North Carolina’s 150,000-acre Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, the only distinctly American wolf is losing its fight for its survival. US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists introduced more than 100 captive-bred wolves to the refuge and saw the population peak at more than 225 wolves more than a decade ago. Their numbers have dropped. Wolves have been shot by landlords and farmers, hit by cars and evicted for doing what comes naturally to them: wandering to find new territory.

“Kawoni is a beautiful and healthy red wolf, and an important ambassador for his critically endangered species,” zoo director Gregg Dancho said. “Welcoming Kawoni to the zoo at this time gives us a platform to alert our guests to the fragile state of red wolves in the wild. They have a very uncertain future except in SSP programs in zoos.

“The zoo’s SSP/breeding program exists to support the dwindling number of animals still in the wild,” Dancho explained. “It’s a true testament to our zoo’s strong reputation for its work protecting endangered species and educating our visitors about them. It’s an important part of our mission.

About Red Wolves

The red wolf (Red canis) is one of the most endangered wild canids in the world. Once common throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations were decimated in the 1960s due to intensive predator control programs and habitat loss. A remnant population of red wolves has been found along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. After being declared an endangered species in 1973, efforts were launched to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the remaining 17 wolves captured by biologists, 14 became founders of a successful captive breeding program. Consequently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.

In 1987, a few animals were released as part of an experimental relocation program. Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut contributed eight red wolf cubs, born in Bridgeport, to the 1987 release program. At the start of this century, there were perhaps 150 red wolves in the wild, more than half of what the service wildlife deemed necessary for a sustainable population. In 2006, wolf populations began to decline as private landowners complained about wolves on their land, and the USFWS began issuing permits to landowners who wanted to shoot red wolves on their land.

About the Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut

Give free rein to your curiosity! Connecticut’s only zoo turns 98and year, presents 300 animals representing mainly species from North and South America. Guests won’t want to miss our Amur tigers and leopards, family maned wolves, Brazilian ocelot, Mexican and red wolves and golden lion tamarins. Other highlights include our new spider monkey habitat, Natt family red panda habitat, South American rainforest with free-flying aviary, prairie dog exhibit with “ephemeral” observation and the plain of the pampas with giant anteaters and Chaco peccaries. Guests can grab a bite to eat in the Peacock Café, eat in the Picnic Grove and take a ride on our colorful indoor carousel. For more information and updates on the zoo’s closure status, visit beardsleyzoo.org

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