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Woodland Park Zoo - Press Release


February 3, 2012

Elderly African wild dog dies of age-related complications.

Gigi Allianic, Rebecca Whitham
206.548.2550 |

  Photo credit: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

An African wild dog at Woodland Park Zoo, named Bakari, was euthanized due to physical decline from an inoperable mass. An endangered species, African wild dogs are very rare in the wild and in zoos. Bakari is shown on left in photo.

SEATTLE ‒ An 11-year-old male African wild dog at Woodland Park Zoo was humanely euthanized yesterday due to physical decline from an inoperable mass of the nasal sinus area. African wild dogs can live up to 10 to 11 years old in the wild and in zoos.

Over the past few months, the wild dog, named Bakari (bah-KAR-ee), had experienced chronic intermittent nasal discharge with occasional blood. A CT scan performed by Dr. Rob Liddell at the Center for Diagnostic Imaging, located in Seattle, showed an extensive mass in the left sinus with associated bone erosion and disease. “We can’t determine the cause of the mass at this time, but it was aggressive and untreatable,” explained Dr. Darin Collins, director of Animal Health at Woodland Park Zoo. “Euthanasia was the most humane option for this animal.” Dr. Liddell has been a long-time volunteer radiologist at Woodland Park Zoo and is a member of Woodland Park Zoo’s Board of Directors.

A necropsy confirmed the soft tissue mass, which is suspect for a malignant tumor of unknown origin at this time. A final cause of death is pending complete results of histology and other diagnostic testing, which is routine for all animal deaths at the zoo. The remains following today’s necropsy procedure will become part of the research and education collection at The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

The African wild dog lived at Woodland Park Zoo since 2002 when he and three of his brothers arrived from Brookfield Zoo to live in a new exhibit built as an expansion of the zoo’s award-winning African Savanna. The dogs’ arrival marked the first time the endangered species was exhibited at Woodland Park Zoo. Only one brother survives.

Several months ago, the zoo made a decision to retire the dogs to an off-view exhibit. “We will move the remaining dog once modifications are made, where he will live the rest of his life and continue to receive the best care,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. The existing African wild dog exhibit will be transformed to evoke the arid savannas of East Africa and will become home to warthogs, a new species at the zoo. The pigs will make their public appearance in May.

African wild dogs are one of the most endangered predators on the planet and also are very rare in zoos. Ramirez reports that fewer than two percent of the nation’s zoos exhibit this canid species. “The death of Bakari is a significant loss for the species and the managed population of African wild dogs in North American zoos. He and his brothers offered a rare window into the world of this very elusive and amazing predator of southern Africa. We’re very saddened to lose Bakari,” said Ramirez.

Fewer than 5,600 African wild dogs are thought to still exist in the wild. Once widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, their range has been reduced to just a few fragmented populations in Tanzania, extreme northeastern South Africa, across most of Botswana, parts of Zimbabwe, and areas of Namibia, Angola and Zambia. Most of these packs are restricted to national parks and protected areas. African wild dog populations have suffered great declines in the past 20 years due to habitat loss and poaching by farmers concerned for their livestock. Diseases such as distemper and rabies have also taken their toll. Known as the caring carnivores, African wild dogs take care of their old, young and sick. They are fierce cooperative hunters, not scavengers, and the pack functions as a “family” where reproduction and nurturing of young take place.    

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Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, award-winning Woodland Park Zoo is famed for pioneering naturalistic exhibits and setting international standards for zoos in animal care, conservation and education programs. Woodland Park Zoo is helping to save animals and their habitats in Washington state and in 50 countries around the world. By inspiring people to care and act, Woodland Park Zoo is making a difference in our planet’s future. For more information, visit