TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A mating pair of endangered red wolves now call ZooTampa home, and zoo staff are hopeful there may be pups in the future as they work to help save the species.

ZooTampa works with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums on the Red Wolf Species Survival plan to help increase genetic diversity and population numbers of the wolves.

With the Florida Wilds exhibit at ZooTampa now open, there was room for more red wolves at the zoo.

Nymeria and Sumac can be seen in the original red wolf habitat.

“We were able to take in a breeding pair and they went in to our old red wolf habitat. So we created a new space for our three brothers that we already had at the zoo,” said Molly Lippencott, curator of Florida and manatees at ZooTampa.

Lippencott said there are about 40 institutions nationwide that are a part of the breeding program. It is trying to re-introduce red wolves into the wild in a joint effort with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The ZooTampa wolves won’t immediately be introduced into the wild, but Lippencott said they are contributing to the genetic population of the remaining red wolves.

“So over time, some of the wolves we have here may be re-introduced into the wild,” she said. “We’re really excited to be a part of that program, considering they are trying to make a direct impact into the wild.” 

Lippencott explained red wolves are critically endangered, with less than 20 living in the wild. ZooTampa remains optimistic in their conservation work.

“We’re really excited, it is breeding season and we’re optimistic that we have a pair now and we’ll have to see if we have some babies in the spring, and if not, it’s just really great for people to interact with red wolves,” Lippencott said.

The zoo said though extremely unlikely, all red wolf sightings should be reported to redwolf@fws.gov.