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Endangered Pair of South American Wolf Pups Born
Credit: Houston Zoo.

The Houston Zoo has announced the birth of two endangered maned wolf pups, a species native to South America.

Born on Dec. 30, the pups are being hand-reared at the Houston Zoo's animal hospital.

"This is the first successful birth of maned wolves at the Houston Zoo in over 10 years," said Hollie Colahan, the zoo's curator of carnivores and primates.

"The pups weigh just over 5 pounds [2.3 kilograms] now and are being cared for around the clock," Colahan said.

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The pups, Dora and Diego, were named after the lead characters in two popular children's television cartoon programs, "Dora the Explorer," and "Go, Diego, Go!"

Maned wolves are native to the prairies and scrub lands of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. The species once roamed throughout much of east-central South America.

With reddish coats and white-tipped ears and throats, adult maned wolves look startlingly like very large foxes. The wolves can measure 3 feet (slightly less than a meter) at the shoulder, weigh in at around 50 pounds (23 kilograms), and have a lanky build.

Unlike other wolves, maned wolves lead a solitary existence. They mate for life, and although a monogamous pair will usually share a mutually defended territory, they typically only come together during the breeding season.

The species is listed as near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the organization that assesses the status of animal populations worldwide.

According to the most recent estimates, made in 2008, roughly 13,000 maned wolves are left on the planet.