A male wolf, Ash, at a zoo in England is caring for his pups alone after their mother was tragically shot in August 2017.
Ember, a female Eurasian wolf at Cotswold Wildlife Park in Bradwell Grove, Oxfordshire, was spotted outside the perimeter fence on July 21, the BBC reported Monday. The zoo said at the time that staff shot Ember as a matter of public safety because they were unable to tranquilize her.
“There was no way of using the tranquiliser as they couldn’t get close enough to take a safe and effective shot,” managing director Reggie Heyworth told the Oxford Times. “There were no other options open.”
An investigation later attributed Ember’s escape to the zoo’s electric fence failing. The incident has led to public backlash and violent threats toward zookeepers. Ember’s death has also left her five 10-week-old pups without a mother. The pups were the first Eurasian wolf pups born at the zoo in the 47 years it’s been open.
Now Ash appears to be stepping up to the job of caring for them. “Ash, our male wolf, is displaying encouraging ‘natural’ behaviour as a single parent to his ten-week-old cubs, who are close to being fully weaned,” said a zoo statement to HuffPost.
“The cubs, a mix of both male and female, are now eating naturally as they would in the wild with the support of their father.” The father is attentive to his pups and helps them eat by regurgitating food, The Sun reports. “Ash calls to them and they follow him,” mammal keeper Hayley Mullaney told the Sun. “He’s also very attentive and tends to sit near the den as they’re resting.”
Mullaney added that the pups were a bit “unsettled” by their mother’s absence but that Ash’s good parenting skills were helping them. According to the International Wolf Center, typically all wolves in a pack help care for the young, and National Geographic notes it’s common for male wolves to “babysit.”
The zoo statement added that Ash is “young” and this is his first litter, but the zoo is hopeful about the pups’ future. “We remain confident that the cubs will continue to grow from strength to strength, that Ember’s genetic heritage will endure, and that her life, though short, will have been worthwhile,” she said.”
As reported by Hilary Hanson, HuffPost