It seems love was in the air for two Red Pandas earlier this year at South Dakota's Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History. Zoo officials are now hearing the pitter-patter of little feet. The Zoo’s eight-year-old Red Panda “Ruth” gave birth to a litter of cubs earlier this summer. The two cubs weighed 3.45 ounces and 4.23 ounces at birth, and were born with their eyes and ears closed.
Both in the wild and in captivity, Red Panda cubs have trouble with thriving in their first year of life. Zookeepers recognized that the cubs needed additional care, and began hand-rearing them in the Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital. The Zoo’s animal care staff continues to monitor the cubs, and bottle feeds them three times a day. They now weigh 3.7 and 3.1 pounds. Until last week, one cub was separated in an oxygen chamber. She continues to do well and now only receives oxygen treatments twice a day.
“Our animal care staff has worked tirelessly to ensure the Red Panda cubs receive the best care possible,” said Elizabeth A. Whealy, President and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo. “We have high hopes for these cubs – not just for the fun it will be for us to watch them grow up, but for their importance to the Red Panda population worldwide.”
Red Pandas are part of the Zoo’s endangered species breeding program. This species faces a tenuous future in the wild; fewer than 10,000 Red Pandas survive in the wild. The forests they inhabit are shrinking due to logging and the spread of agriculture.