A Red Panda cub is making a remarkable recovery at Taronga Zoo with the help of a surrogate mom and a cuddly soft toy.
The two-month-old female cub, named Maiya, gets round-the-clock care after sustaining a neck injury while being carried in her mother’s mouth.
“She’s definitely a little survivor,” said Tamara Gillies, Maiya’s primary keeper. “She’s guzzling down her milk formula, she’s gaining weight every day and the wound on her neck has almost completely healed.”
The cub has also found a fluffy new friend in the form of a soft toy Red Panda, which she clings to while feeding and sleeping.
“The soft toy gives her something with a familiar scent to snuggle and play with. It’s the same color as a real Red Panda and she clings to it using her claws and teeth as she would do with her mum,” said Tamara.
Maiya, whose name means “little girl” in Nepali, was born at Taronga on November 20, 2016 to first-time parents Amala and Pabu. The cub spent her first five weeks in mother Amala’s care before keepers made the difficult decision to intervene.
“It was a hard choice as we’d always prefer for a cub to be raised by its mother. Amala was doing an amazing job for a first-time mum. She was very attentive and we observed all the right suckling and grooming behaviours, but unfortunately the injury to the cub’s neck required urgent veterinary care,” said Tamara.
Tamara said it’s not uncommon for Red Panda cubs to experience neck wounds as mothers often carry their young by the scruff of the neck.
Maiya will remain in Tamara’s constant care for at least another month, but keepers are already taking steps to gradually reintroduce the cub to her parents.
Red Pandas are native to the Himalayan Mountains, where they dwell in the forests. They feed primarily on bamboo and are in decline due to shrinking habitat.