A 6-week-old maned wolf puppy is held by a caretaker at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. on Jan. 16.

Photo: Nucharin Songsasen/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Maned wolf pup litter thriving at Smithsonian

A 6-week-old maned wolf puppy is held by a caretaker at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Va., on Feb. 16. The litter of four puppies — born to 8-year-old mother Salina and 4-year-old father Nopal on Jan. 5 — were given their first medical vaccinations and appeared to be healthy and thriving.

Caretakers are keeping a close watch on them as they grow because maned wolves are difficult to breed under captivity and have a high mortality rate. It is estimated that as many as half of a single litter will die within the first month of life.

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Veterinarian Technician Liza Ware examines one of the 6-week-old wolf pups at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute on Feb. 16.

Photo: Nucharin Songsasen/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Puppies are in tip-top shape

Veterinarian technician Liza Ware examines one of the 6-week-old pups at the Front Royal institute on Feb. 16. The birth of the puppies comes as wonderful news to researchers who are working on the Maned Wolf Species Survival Plan, which seeks to increase the genetic diversity of the near-threatened species.

Maned wolves are found in grasslands and other semi-open areas of central South America, but due to human encroachment, there are only about 20,000 individuals left in the wild.