Two roly-poly little Red Panda cubs were born mid-June at the Assiniboine Park Zoo to proud panda parents Slash and Dash. Since Dash abandoned her young last year, a decision was made to hand-raise the two female cubs rather than risk losing them, as the Red Panda is an endangered species. There are only 8,000 surviving Red Pandas in the Himalayas of China and adjacent countries -- the result of poaching and loss of over 50% of their habitat from forest destruction and fragmentation.
(Above) Steele on the left and Robyn on the right
(Below) The cubs at 1 week!
Photo credits: Assiniboine Park Zoo
About 800 Red Pandas exist in zoos, most within formal breeding programs. The Assiniboine Park Zoo’s three recent pairs have contributed 10 offspring to the captive population, in spite of the species’ usually high mortality rate of 50% in the first year. In the past there was uncertainty whether the Red Panda should be classified in the bear or raccoon family, but it is now know to be in a family of its own, with carnivorous ancestors that occurred across Eurasia and North America. Like the Giant Panda, it eats mainly bamboo, augmented with insects and small birds and rodents. It has evolved a special ‘thumb’ from a wrist bone, which is used in grasping food.
“These two recent newborns will be placed in other zoos as soon as they are weaned,” said Dr. Bob Wrigley, Zoo Curator. “One will go to the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, the other to the Prospect Park Zoo in New York. Their placement is part of the International Red Panda Species Survival Plan.”
Slash and Dash arrived in Winnipeg in the spring of 2002 from the Yokohama and Asahiyama zoos in Japan.