In vitro fertilization (IVF) has been used successfully in many animals — including, notably, humans — for decades. But despite numerous attempts, scientists had never been able to figure out IVF for dogs. 

This year, for the first time, seven puppies (five beagles and two “bockers,” or beagle-cocker spaniel mixes) were born through IVF. That’s cool. And cute. And also very exciting for the people trying to save other canine species that are in decline because of habitat destrcution:

ISLAND FOX, Urocyon littoralis (Southern California)
~4000 left
They live on only six of the eight Channel Islands (less than 400 square miles).

ETHIOPIAN WOLF, Canis simensis (Ethiopian Highlands)
360 - 440 adults left
The Ethiopian wolf sometimes team up with monkeys to hunt alpine rodents.

AFRICAN WILD DOGLycaon pictus (from Algeria to South Africa)
~5,000 left
They hunt antelope by chasing them to exhaustion. 

RED WOLF, Canis Rufus (North Carolina)
~150 left

Their population once fell to just 14 individuals.

MANED WOLFChrysocyon brachyurus (central South America)
~17,000 left
Maned wolves need wide uninterrupted territory to survive.

DHOLECuon alpinus (China, India, Southeast Asia)
4,500-10,500 left
These pack hunters use “whistles” to communicate with one another while hunting much larger prey. 

DARWIN’S FOXLycalopex fulvipes (Chile)
less than 250 left
So-called because Darwin collected a specimen in 1834. 200 of the remaining population live on on Chiloé Island.

MEXICAN GRAY WOLFCanis lupus baileyi (Mexico, the southeastern US)
~360 left
All the Mexican gray wolves alive today are all descendants of five wolves captured in 1973.

Currently, efforts to increase these species rely on natural breeding programs. The Smithsonian’s maned wolf breeding program ships males from South America to their facility in Front Royal, Virginia. It would be great if they could just ship sperm. And using samples collected from multiple individuals could greatly increase the genetic diversity of a population, instead of relying on a few captive mating pairs. Exciting!

Have some actually endangered canids

A lot of people care about the gray wolf, and that is great. In some areas, it hasn’t returned, or the population is still small and weak. Large predators like the wolf has an important function in the ecosystem. But on a global scale, the gray wolf is not endangered.  So, if you love wolves, share some love for these endangered relatives:

Lycaon pictus, the African wild dog, aka painted dog. Lives in packs in Africa. I find the pattern in the fur very striking, and every individual has slightly different spots, which helps with telling them apart! Unlike gray wolves, painted dogs let the young eat first of a fresh kill. Their prey consists usually of medium to large ungulates, such as kudu. The main threat comes from habitat loss and poaching.

Lycalopex fulvipes, Darwin’s fox, is only found in Chile. It got it’s name for being first described by Charles Darwin. It is closely related to the South American gray fox (L. griseus). The animal is quite small, and lives off a varied diet of insects, small mammals, reptiles etc. Sometimes also eating fruits and berries. It is estimated that only about 250 remain in the wild.

Cuon alpinus, the dhole, is a canid native to south-east Asia. They hunt in smaller groups than wolves tend to do, and are also less territorial. Their packs might also have more than one reproducing female at a time. Their prey include a variety of ungulates and other mammals. Dholes do not howl, but have a lot of other vocalizations, such as whines, growls and whistles.

(all pictures from Wikimedia commons)