Moscow’s Wolves

By Elena Migunova

Reporter. Would you introduce yourselves?

Tarzan. My name is Tarzan and my friend here is called Rada. We met 3 years ago, at the Zoo’s breeding station. I was born in the other zoo and Rada is from the wild! Some people saved her when she was a tiny cub, took good care of her and then later brought her to the breeding station. She is pretty friendly and calm. I liked her as soon as I first saw her.

Rada. Tarzan was very suspicious at first, and didn’€™t like people. He kept jumping very high in his enclosure that’s why the keepers called him Tarzan. But after we met, he became a different wolf: calm and nice. Now we are together here, at the zoo, and he is just a tiny bit cautious€“ especially when he hears a sound of some big trucks or lorries. But otherwise he has almost stopped putting his tail between his legs.

Reporter. Are there other wolves here, or just you guys?

Tarzan. Oh, there’s another couple€“ they live in the New Territory, in a place called Beast Island – nice location, but frightful neighbours! Imagine, there are hyenas, bears, even lions there!

Reporter. Don’€™t be such a chicken! They are all kept separately! It’€™s completely safe!

Tarzan. Those wolves belong to the same species, but are different: white polar wolves. They are much older than us, but hopefully will stay at the zoo for a long time: in captivity we live up to 20 years, in the wild normally only 5 to 6 years. So, we are lucky: no predators, no hunters, plenty of food. Some days are ‘hungry,’ just like in the wild. I usually bury some pieces of meat in soil. But those crows! Ugly tricky birds When I take nap in the daytime, they come and find my hideouts! Miserable good for nothing birds!

Reporter. The crows sit close by and watch Tarzan digging closely Sometimes they fool me, too.

Rada. In the wild, our relationships with people haven’t always been very good. When they started raising cattle, they consider us dangerous competitors. They started to invent wild stories about werewolves etc. We got a bad rap but for what? We didn’t take a lot one or two sheep, not a big deal. Wolves were extinct in England by the 16th century, and everywhere else a couple of centuries later.

Tarzan. Things began changing in the 20th century. People started to realize that wolves help to keep the population of hoofed animals under control “ we remove sick and weak animals. Finally, we came to an understanding.

Reporter. But people at the Moscow zoo are different. They like you, they play with you. I hear that wolves love their back to be scratched – and so you have trained your keepers to scratch you! I also heard that you are pretty good trainers, and can educate your keepers pretty effectively. I’€™ve got a question — do you eat only meat?

Tarzan. Not at all! Our diet is very diversified. Not just meat, but also chickens and quails, and fish. And also cottage cheese. They bring also eggs – but I don’t like them. Every wolf has his own preferences.

Rada. I sometimes like to nibble a carrot or an apple, and fresh wheat germ even carnivores need fruit and green grass, it’€™s healthy.

Tarzan. There are more wolves at our zoo. Not real wolves, of course, but also members of our extended family believe it or not, members of our Canids Family live not only in Russia, but all over the world. You can see some of them here. There are dholes here. Originally they are from Asia do you remember The Jungle Book? Maned wolves from South America they are sooo different, with really long legs, large ears and a short dark mane. Maned wolves are the tallest of all the wild dogs. We also have African hunting dogs€“ they look a bit like hyenas, but you know, appearances are deceptive. There are also the racoon-dogs.

Reporter. Do you howl with them as with your pack?

Rada. I’€™m not sure about the other wild dogs€“ but Tarzan and I are devoted singers. We love howling, especially in spring (which starts for animals much earlier than for people in January, as soon as the days start to get longer. We howl in the evenings, and think about summer time

Tarzan. We can do different howls we yelp, whine and even bark. But, of course, we distinguish ourselves by our howl. Wolves’€™ howls are used as greeting cards and as warnings for neighbours: this place is occupied! Howling helps wolves in a pack to communicate while hunting. Sometimes we howl to create the illusion of a larger pack, wolves use polyphony€“ It can help to frighten enemies away! Come back in a couple of months, we can demonstrate to you how we howl “ we’ll be organising a howling concert!