The Nashville Zoo announced this week the birth of a female Red Panda cub on July 3. The cub is doing well and bonding with her mother in their off-exhibit den.
Known for their teddy bear-like appearance and red fur, Red Pandas are native to the mountains of Central China, Nepal and northern Myanmar (Burma). They are considered vulnerable to extinction due to habitat destruction. In addition, slow rates of reproduction and high infant mortality rates make it very hard for this species to rebound from population declines.
“Red Panda mothers are very prone to stress and easily agitated, which could cause them to reject or unintentionally harm the cubs,” said Karen Rice, carnivore supervisor. “Because of the high infant mortality rate, we took every precaution possible to ensure the baby was delivered and cared for safely.”
The zoo staff worked to make the expectant mother comfortable by providing space for “denning” several months prior to her expected delivery date.
“We anticipated a late June/early July birth so we denned up our female in May. She was confined in the building that she is used to and provided with a choice of nest boxes and most importantly – air conditioning!” Rice said.
Animal care staff monitored the female for signs of stress and added video cameras to the nest boxes. These precautions allowed staff to observe the cub’s arrival, nursing, and other important milestones with disturbing mother and cub.
“After our female gave birth we made the decision to continue our hands-off approach since all was going so well. At one month of age, we did our first neonate exam and determined the cub to be female, in good health and weighing just under two pounds. The cub and mom both did well and were happily reunited right after.”
The Zoo’s two Red Panda adults are a part of AZA’s Species Survival Program, which manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining captive population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. If the cub continues to thrive, the zoo will debut the cub this fall. At about a year old, she will most likely leave Nashville Zoo to be paired with a mate for breeding.
If all continues to progress, the Zoo hopes to debut the cub this fall.