Auckland Zoo in New Zealand is celebrating the birth of Nepalese Red Panda twins, two very valuable additions to the international breeding program for this threatened species.
The two cubs were born on January 3, each weighing approximately 100 grams. They are the second and third offspring of four-year-old mum Bo and 13-year-old Sagar, who just over a year ago produced their first-born, male Pabu. Sagar, who was relocated from India's Darjeeling Zoo in 2010, contributes a particularly valuable new bloodline into the Australasian region.
"These births are fantastic news, both for Australasia and for the wider Global Species Management Plan through which Red Panda are managed. We're absolutely delighted Bo has had two healthy cubs and that she's proving once again to be such a confident and attentive mother," says acting Carnivore Team Leader Lauren Booth.
"Following Pabu's birth, we've learnt to read Bo's behavior well so we can gauge the best time to check on and weigh the cubs to track their progress, but otherwise remain hands-off. They have now opened their eyes and are moving about in the nest box a little more, and will sometimes 'huff' at us. Their weights have shot up to 403 grams and 423 grams respectively - above average, so we know they're getting plenty to eat, but they still have a lot more growing to do!"
Booth says like one-year-old Pabu, who will relocate to another zoo in Australia within the next six months, the yet-to-be named and sexed cubs will also in time leave Auckland Zoo to contribute to the international breeding program.
"As zoos we work together to ensure genetic diversity is achieved for insurance populations like the Red Panda - which is vital, but it is an insurance policy, not a solution. Increasingly, we're part of conservation efforts in the wild. Auckland Zoo continues to grow its support of Red Panda Network, whose outstanding community education and forest guardianship programs in eastern Nepal (key Red Panda territory) are playing a vital role in helping protect this species that's threatened by habitat loss and poaching."
See and learn more after the fold!
Visitors to Auckland Zoo will be able to catch the cubs' parents and older brother Pabu out on display, but the cubs are not expected to venture out of their nest box until they are at least 12 weeks old, sometime in March. Their sex will be confirmed in early March when they have their first vet check.
Although it shares the same name, the Red Panda is not related to the Giant Panda. In fact, the Red Panda is not closely related to any other living animals, making it unique. Endemic to the temperate forests of the Himalayas, the Red Panda ranges from Nepal in the west to China in the east. They are also found in northern India, Bhutan and northern Myanmar. The IUCN Red List classifies the Red Panda as 'Vulnerable'. It is threatened by illegal hunting and deforestation. Remaining populations are fast becoming fragmented and isolated from each other. It is uncertain how many remain in the wild today; the IUCN Red List estimates the global population of Red Panda to be about 10,000 individuals. There are close to 500 individuals in zoos worldwide.