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It's Raining Red Pandas! Rare Triple Birth in Oklahoma


Three’s a charm as the Oklahoma City Zoo celebrates the birth of three Red Panda cubs! Born on June 25 to mom “Celeste” and dad “Yoda,” the cubs, two males and one female, are now discovering their outdoor habitat by Zoo Lake. This was the third set of cubs for both parents and a rare occurrence of a triple birth – usually Red Pandas only give birth to two cubs at a time. The cubs mark the eighth, ninth and tenth red panda births to occur at the zoo, with the most recent cub births in June of 2010. The 2010 cubs, a male a female, moved to other zoos in 2010 as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP). The male went to the Central Park Zoo in New York and the female to the Indianapolis Zoo. These photos are courtesy of the Oklahoman newspaper.


Photo credits: Bryan Terry, Copyright 2011, The Oklahoman

The birth of the cubs is a great success for the red panda Species Survival Plan, or SSP. The program was developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is a cooperative effort among AZA accredited zoos throughout North America created to help promote genetic diversity through this species management program.

 “We are very excited to have three new red panda cubs since they are an endangered species,” said Darcy Henthorn, Curator of Antelopes, Birds & Children’s Zoo. “These cubs represent our efforts to successfully breed this beautiful species.”

“Panda” is the Nepalese word for “small, cat-like animal.” The red panda is named for the blazing red color of its coat, which along with the white and black markings on its face helps the animal to blend in with the reddish-brown moss and white lichens that decorate the fir trees of its habitat. Adult red pandas weigh between 12 and 20 pounds and have a long, bushy tail that accounts for two-thirds of their body length. They have thick fur padding on their feet which is ideal for walking on snow and ice, and semi-retractable claws help these excellent climbers to keep their grip in the trees. Red pandas are primarily nocturnal and spend much of the daylight hours curled up in trees.

The cubs weighed about 100 grams (less than one pound) at birth, entering the world fully-furred and a grayish color, blind and totally dependant on their mother. They attain their famous fiery coat at about 90 days, will wean from their mother at about five months and will stay with their mother until they are around a year old. They weighed approximately 1-2 pounds each at their most recent health check.

The species is listed as endangered as their habitats shrink from deforestation. The red panda’s home is in remote areas of the Himalayan Mountains in southern Tibet and southern China is being threatened by agriculture and cattle grazing, and competition from local livestock for resources.

Although the word “panda” brings to mind the much-loved black and white versions of the species, the Giant Panda, red pandas are in a family all their own. While giant pandas are in the bear family, red pandas have not yet been formally classified into a mammal group, although theories suggest such relatives as raccoons or skunks.