'The Carnivores' are a related
group of animals which include all of the cats, large and small, the bears, the dog family
(which includes jackals, coyotes, foxes, and wolves) the raccoon family (which includes
the pandas even though these are not carnivorous animals), the weasel family, the civet
family (which includes genets, meerkats and mongooses), and the hyaenas.
The largest member of the dog family are the wolves, and the commonest
species, the grey wolf, can often be seen in zoos. Up to thirty two subspecies or races of
the grey wolf have been described, and it is likely that most zoo wolves are something of
a mixture of the various races. Wolves live in packs and ought really to be kept in
packs in captivity. Good zoos, like Port Lympne Zoo in
Kent, the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland will have a wolf wood, plenty of space, a
healthy group of animals, and the wolves will look well and breed well. This requirement
does mean that any zoo contemplating keeping wolves really needs to have a good sized wood
to begin with; either that or they need to plant a wood, which does mean planning for the
wolves rather a long time in advance.
Maned wolves are not wolves at all, and they look, as one zoo describes
them, like 'a red fox on stilts'. They are South America's largest member of the dog
family, and are little known, and rarely seen. Their wild population is now vulnerable,
and the captive population is frail. Eighty percent of captive and wild maned wolves
suffer from a genetic disease, eystinuria, and in addition they are susceptible to the
common diseases of domestic dogs. Several zoos now keep them, and zoos like the Pretoria
Zoo have successfully bred them. This is a species that is secretive, and you may have to
be patient to see them. They will need careful management in zoos if their numbers are to
African hunting dogs are no relation to domestic dogs, despite their
name and appearance. They are one of the most critically threatened species of carnivore,
and can breed well in zoos, although not many zoos yet keep them.
Other, smaller carnivores in zoos vary from the familiar, like raccoons, otters, and
mongooses, to the less familiar red pandas, coatis, martens, and honey badgers, and the
practically unknown cacomistles, kinkajous, linsangs, zorillas, and wolverines. They are
often very entertaining animals in zoos, and although few have any particular conservation
value, many are now fairly self sustaining in captivity.