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Maned Wolf

CONSERVATION STATUS : NEAR THREATENED
COMMON EXTINCT
Classification:

Other Common Names: Aguara Guazu, Borochi, Lobo De Crin (Spanish), stilt-legged fox
Order: Carnivora
Genus & Species: Chrysocyon brachyurus
Family: Canidae

Status:

Listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Range:

Central South America from north-eastern Brazil, south through Paraguay and west into Peru. Also found in small areas of Argentina and Bolivia. May be present in some areas of Uruguay, despite being believed to be extinct there in the 19th century.

Habitat:

Tall grasslands (pampas), shrub habitats, savannah woodlands (cerrado), and swampy areas. The cerrado is one of the world’s most important ‘hot-spots’ of biodiversity.

Activity:

Nocturnal, crepuscular.  During the day hours, they rest in areas of thick brush cover and infrequently move short distances.

Diet:

Diet in the Wild: Omnivorous, eating armadillos, rabbits, rodents and other small mammals (cuis, viscachas, pacas, agoutis), fish, birds, bird eggs, reptiles, gastropods and other terrestrial mollusks, insects, seasonably available fruits, and other vegetation. Fruits taken include bananas, guavas, figs and primarily the tomato-like Solanum lycocarpum, aka Wolf’s Fruit or Lobeira. (S. lycocarpum may provide medicinal aid against Dioctophyme renale, a worm that infects the kidneys of the maned wolf). Vegetation eaten is often in the form of roots and bulbs. Vertebrate prey do not often include large domestic stock, but an occasional newborn lamb or pig is taken. It frequently feeds upon free-ranging chickens.

Diet in the Zoo: Apples, grapes, banana, hard-boiled eggs, fish, rats, cow knuckle bone, commercial dog food.

Description:

The largest of all South American canids, it stands about 3 feet tall at the shoulder and has a long, golden-red coat. Head and body length ranges from 49 to 52 inches and tail length from 11 to 16 inches. Weight is 44-50 lbs. The long thin legs grade from red to black at their lower portions. The mane is longer and darker than the rest of the coat, and the wolf will raise its mane to show superiority to rivals. The body is narrow and the ears large (up to 7 inches long) and erect. The dentition of the maned wolf reflects its food habits. As this animal does not kill or eat large prey, its upper carnassials (shearing teeth) are reduced, its upper incisors weak, and its canines are long and slender.  Genetic studies indicate the maned wolf is neither a fox nor a true wolf, but a distinct species uniquely adapted for life in the grasslands.

Reproduction:

Monogomous.  Little is known about the reproductive patterns of wild maned wolves. Captives mate between October and February in the Northern Hemisphere and between August and October in South America (time of mating is thought be controlled by photoperiod). Female estrous lasts 1 to 4 days. Gestation lasts approximately 65 days. A litter usually contains 1 to 5 young (pups) which are born during the dry season when small mammals are most abundant. Newborns weigh 12 to 15 ounces and develop quickly. Their eyes and ears open by day 9, their ears stand upright and they will take regurgitated food by week 4, the fur changes from black to red by week 10, and they are weaned by 15 weeks.  Their bodies have the proportions of adults at 1 year, at which time they reach sexual maturity, although females are thought to begin reproduction at 2 years of age. Wild maned wolves give birth in natal nests hidden by thick vegetation and are rarely seen with their pups.  In a zoological setting, male maned wolves have been observed regurgitating food for their young which may indicate that the male plays a significant role in the care of young in the natural environment.

Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:

Maned wolves rotate their large ears to listen for prey animals in the grass. They tap the ground with a front foot to flush out the prey and pounce to catch it.  The particularly long legs of the maned wolf are likely an adaptation which allows them to see above and move through the tall grass in which they often hunt. Their fur coat lacks underfur form more efficient temperature control in a hot climate.  Toes spread sideways to increase area of contact with marshy ground.  7-inch long ears provide excellent hearing and can be moved in different directions for pinpointing prey.  Long-hairs on the back of the neck & shoulders can be raised in a threat display to make the maned wolf look larger and more fearsome.  Longer back legs let it climb slopes with speed but make going downhill difficult.  Rough footpads and strong claws for gripping the ground.

The most important fruit in the Maned wolf’s diet is the Lobeira, which is available year round.  Passage of Lobeira seeds through the maned wolf increases their chance of germinating, making the wolf important to the survival of a food source on which many grassland species depend.

Conservation:

In 2005 estimated the total population of maned wolves at approximately 23,600 animals, including 21,746 in Brazil, 880 in Argentina, and 660 in Argentina. Numbers in Bolivia are unlikely to exceed 1000 animals.  With their primarily solitary habits and large home ranges, maned wolves are found in low densities throughout the range.

The primary threat to the maned wolf is the rapid conversion of its grassland habitat from traditional large cattle ranches to soybean production. The resulting islands of suitable habitat cannot support genetically viable wild populations of maned wolves or any other large carnivore.

While not often hunted for its coat, the maned wolf is hunted as a pest. It faces additional pressures as its grassland habitat is burned for human purposes. The maned wolf currently has virtually no presence in Argentina and Uruguay as a result of these pressures. Of note, however, is the extension of their Brazilian range as they exploit recently deforested regions.

Maned wolves are often killed on highways, frequently on those which border protected areas. Road kills are responsible for the death of approximately half the annual production of pups in some reserves. Domestic dogs also pose a threat by transferring diseases, competing for food, and even killing the maned wolf.

Some local people attribute mystical qualities to several parts of the wolf’s anatomy (eyes, skin, tail) and still hunt this threatened species in order to use these parts as ‘talisman’ or for medicinal remedies. As its habitat is encroached upon by ever-expanding farms, the wolf is forced into increased proximity with people, exacerbating the already-existing conflict.

A maned wolf SSP was established in 1985.  In 2010, there were 82 adults housed at 29 institutions and 17 births during the 2009/2010 season in the USA.  Most of the early SSP research focused on reproductive behavior and physiology, parental behavior, infant behavior and development, nutrition, and health issues.  There is now a concentrated attention to develop educational materials for zoo and wildlife educators as well as supporting field conservation initiatives in Brazil.