Maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus)

Synonyms: Canis brachyurus
  
French: Loup À Crinière
Spanish: Aguara Guazu, Borochi, Lobo De Crin
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyCanidae
GenusChrysocyon (1)
SizeShoulder height: 74 - 78 cm (2)
Head-body length: 1.2 - 1.3 m (3)
Weight20 – 23 kg (3)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

Standing at almost a metre tall, the maned wolf is the largest Canid in South America and the only member of its genus, Chrysocyon (5) (6). With a golden-red coat, long pointed muzzle and large erect ears (7), it is similar in appearance to the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) (3). However, its extremely long, thin legs make the maned wolf immediately recognisable and, with its fox-like attributes, have earned it the epithet ‘a fox on stilts’ (2). This distinctive feature is thought to be an adaptation to help the animal see above the tall grass of its habitat (5). The common name, ‘maned wolf’, is derived from the characteristic mane-like strip of black fur running from the back of the head to the shoulders (8), which stands erect when danger is sensed (7). The muzzle and lower legs are black, while the throat, inside of the ears and tip of the tail are white (7) (8).

The maned wolf is found in central South America, from north-eastern Brazil, south through Paraguay and west into Peru (1). It is also found in small areas of Argentina and Bolivia, and may still be present in some areas of Uruguay, despite being believed to be extinct there in the 19th century (5) (8).

The maned wolf prefers open habitats in tall grasslands, low-scrub edges of forests and even swampy areas (2). In Brazil, this species is found in the cerrado, a large area of open woodland and savannah that is one of the world's most important 'hot-spots' of biodiversity (9).

The maned wolf hunts primarily at night, and during dusk and dawn hours, while the days are often spent resting, often in areas of thick bush cover (5). The diet consists of a wide variety of fruits and small mammals, such as armadillos and rabbits, but also includes occasional pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus), birds, reptiles, insects, fish and arthropods (1). The maned wolf’s main source of food is the tomato-like lobeira fruit, which grows throughout its range and is thought to provide medicinal aid against the giant kidney worm, Dioctophyme renate (1) (5). Scavenging on road-kill also occurs and free-ranging chickens are frequently stolen from farms (8).

Unlike other wolves that live in cooperative breeding packs, the maned wolf is primarily solitary (10). Although the basic social unit is the male-female mated pair, which share a home range typically between 25 to 50 square kilometres (11), these individuals remain fairly independent of one another and only closely associate during the breeding season from April to June (5) (6) (8). The female gives birth to a litter of one to five pups each year (average of three) between June and September (6) (8). Originally, it was believed that the female alone cared for the young, suckling them for up to 15 weeks (3). However, in captivity males have been observed grooming and defending pups, as well as feeding them by regurgitation. Pups reach sexual maturity and disperse from their natal home range at around one year old, but do not usually reproduce until the second year (8). Captive individuals have lived up to 16 years (8).

The most significant threat to the survival of remaining maned wolf populations is habitat loss (8). The conversion of land to agriculture has drastically reduced the available habitat for the maned wolf, with the cerrado of Brazil being reduced to about 20 percent of its original extent (8). In addition maned wolves are often killed on highways, frequently on those which border protected areas. Indeed, road kills are responsible for the death of approximately half the annual production of pups in some reserves (8). Domestic dogs also pose a threat by transferring diseases, competing for food, and even killing the maned wolf (1).

Some local people attribute mystical qualities to several parts of the wolf’s anatomy (eyes, skin, tail) and still hunt this threatened species in order to use these parts as ‘talisman’ or for medicinal remedies (6). Occasionally, this wolf is hunted for sport (5), and, due to the wolf’s threat to domestic poultry, farmers also hunt it as a pest (6). As its habitat is encroached upon by ever-expanding farms, the wolf is forced into increased proximity with people, exacerbating the already-existing conflict (6).

The maned wolf occurs in a number of protected areas across its range. Although protected by law in certain countries, with hunting prohibited in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, law enforcement is often problematic. At present, there are no known conservation actions specific to the maned wolf, but there are broader attempts to protect parts of its habitat and reduce the impact of animal road kills in Brazil (1). Encouragingly, observations indicate that the maned wolf is able to colonize different habitats and that the species’ range has altered in configuration in recent years rather than diminished (12). This has, however, led these wolves into areas of greater proximity and conflict with humans, and education programmes have therefore been started to dissuade farmers from shooting this rare species (2). As of 2003, 146 institutions reported a total of 431 maned wolves in captivity, including 208 males and 222 females (8). However, for unknown reasons, canids breed poorly in captivity. Research has therefore been conducted into behaviour affecting hormones, nutrition and stress in captivity, as well as the use of modern reproductive technologies to aid the process (10). Future studies need to focus on population surveys throughout the species’ range, as well as research into how human encroachment and habitat loss is impacting this distinctive canid (1).

For more information on the maned wolf, visit:

For further information on the conservation of the maned wolf see:

Authenticated (15/09/08) by Claudio Sillero and Jed Murdoch, IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group.
http://www.canids.org and
http://www.wildcru.org

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Lioncrusher’s Domain (November, 2005)
    http://www.lioncrusher.com/animal.asp?animal=23
  3. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  4. CITES (November, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org
  5. Animal Diversity Web (November, 2005)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/index.html
  6. Consorte-McCrea, A.G. (1994) The Maned Wolf in Captivity. The IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group’s Canid News, 2: 8 - 12. Available at:
    http://www.canids.org/PUBLICAT/CNDNEWS2/cndn2toc.htm
  7. WWF (November, 2005)
    http://www.panda.org/news_facts/education/middle_school/species/wolf_maned_intro.cfm
  8. Sillero-Zubiri, C., Hoffman, M. and Macdonald, D.W. (2004) Canids: Foxes, Wolves, Jackals and Dog: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN Publications Services Unit, Cambridge. Available at:
    http://www.canids.org/species/Chrysocyon_brachyurus.htm
  9. Mittermeier, R.A., Robles-Gil, P., Hoffmann, M., Pilgrim, J.D., Brooks, T.M., Mittermeier, C.G., Lamoreux, J.L. and Fonseca, G. (2004) Hotspots Revisited: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Ecoregions. Cemex, Mexico City.
  10. Smithsonian National Zoological Park (November, 2005)
    http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/ReproductiveScience/Canids.cfm
  11. Sillero, C. (2008) Pers. comm.
  12. Courtenay, O. (1994) Conservation of the Maned Wolf: fruitful relationships in a changing environment. The IUCN/SSC Canid Specialist Group’s Canid News, 2: 41 - 43. Available at:
    http://www.canids.org/PUBLICAT/CNDNEWS2/cndn2toc.htm