Contest winners help name maned wolf pups

Highland ISD class among winnersThe Maned Wolf puppies at the Abilene Zoo are nameless no more.Several hundred zoo guests cast ballots to name the pups, choosing among a selection of South American-inspired names to reflect the pups’ indigenous habitat.The winning monikers were “Sofia” for the female pup and “Cruz” for the male.Those who voted for the winning names were then entered into a drawing for two paw print paintings pawed by the puppies.Eleven-year-old Dylan Joseph Allsup was the prize winner for the name Sofia. Allsup is a zoo member and frequent visitor. He is home-schooled along with his three siblings and is in the fifth grade.The contest winner for the name Cruz was Carla Sandusky’s Pre-K class at Highland Independent School District. Sandusky’s students submitted ballots for the contest and learned about the animals as a class project. The class came to see the pups this week.Meanwhile, the pups, born Dec. 13, are weaned, eating solid food and are active in the exhibit for zoo guests to enjoy. They even have burrowed themselves a den within the exhibit. Born a grayish brown, the pups’ fur is beginning to turn a fox-like red like their parents.The Abilene Zoo has worked to protect Maned Wolves, which are listed as a near-threatened species, for more than five years and participates in the collaborative, inter-zoo Maned Wolf Species Survival Plan, which includes breeding Maned Wolves and educating the public about the species.The Abilene Zoo is home to more than 900 animals from 250 species. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kids’ activities, including camps, birthday parties and behind the scenes tours. The Abilene Zoo is open seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last admittance is 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults, $3.50 for children ages 3-12, $5 for seniors aged 60+. Members are admitted free.  Memberships start at $30. During the summer months, the zoo is open every Thursday until 9 p.m., with admission ending at 8:30 p.m.