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Schönbrunn zoo / Norbert Potensky

Baby prairie dogs venture outside for first time

These little rodents have just made their first trip out of their birthing enclosure at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo.

Four black-tailed prairie dogs were born in the zoo back in April but they have been unable to make their way out into the world of their sociable siblings until now.

"At birth, prairie dogs weigh only about 15 grams, and are still naked, blind and deaf," explains zoo director Dagmar Schratter. "For nearly two months they are weaned from their mother. Now they can nibble plants."

Prairie dogs live very sociable lives in family groups that often join together to form large colonies. Some of their favourite pastimes include maintaining eachother's fur, playing around and looking after the pups together.

The wild rodents are native to North America and at 30 centimetres are only half the size of the similar looking marmots - a species they are related to.

But in contrast to marmots, these prairie dogs not whistle to warn their colony from an enemy, choosing instead to use a barking call, hence the name.

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