Two bush dogs at the Palm Beach Zoo are presumed dead after their habitat flooded last weekend.
Bush dogs are a threatened species found in Suriname, Guyana and Peru. They are known for their soft, long fur, bushy tails and short legs. Adults are about 2 feet long and 1 foot high.
The discovery was made early Monday when keepers were checking on the animals, known as Lily and Carino, at the zoo, in Dreher Park in West Palm Beach.
“They are one of a few mammal species at the zoo that burrows, and when water started rising in their home, they likely went underground where they sleep,” Jan Steele, the zoo’s director of wildlife care and conservation, said in a prepared statement.
“We immediately pumped out all the water in the habitat and excavated every burrow. Basically after an entire day of digging, we were unable to dig any deeper without putting the infrastructure of the habitat in jeopardy.”
Zoo officials said they searched the habitat and nearby fences for holes and either tufts of fur or scratch marks. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversee zoos, have been informed.
Steele said it’s unlikely the dogs tried to escape by climbing a fence.
“It’s more likely that in this situation they would burrow deeper, which would cause the water to flow in and the burrow to collapse,” she said in her statement.
Bush dogs are skittish, timid, shy and only eat small rodents and lizards.
“Given how skittish the dogs were when we didn’t find them in initial searches, we set food out their favorite food items to see if they would come out with no one around.”
Both Lily and Carino had individual identification microchips, but zoo officials said you have to be within a foot of the animal to read the chip, and they were unable to get that close during excavations of the habitat.
The Zoo is now home to two bush dogs, a breeding pair, Osito and Dolly.