It may be summer in the northern hemisphere, but in New Zealand, it’s almost winter – the perfect time for a pair of Red Panda cubs to debut at the Hamilton Zoo.
Photo Credit: Hamilton Zoo
Born on January 22, the cubs – one male and one female – are thriving under the care of their mother, Tayla. This is Tayla’s fourth litter.
Cubs typically remain in the nest box with their mother for several months before venturing out. At about five to six months of age, Red Panda cubs begin weaning from mother’s milk to a diet of bamboo.
Red Pandas have only one litter of cubs per year. In fact, there is only a 24-hour window each year during which Red Pandas breed. This limited breeding cycle, coupled with habitat loss, contributes to Red Pandas’ decline in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Red Pandas as Vulnerable in their native range of southwestern China, northern India, Tibet, Bhutan, Burma and Nepal.
On the morning of January 28th, Adelaide Zoo Panda Keepers made a delightful, yet surprising, discovery during a routine clean of the Red Panda night quarters. Inside were two tiny Red Panda cubs!
Photo Credits: Dave Mattner
Zoo keepers had ruled out the possibility that the Zoo’s eight-year-old female Red Panda was pregnant in December, after the yearly birthing season passed without the arrival of cubs.
Since the discovery, the two ten-week-old cubs have spent most of their time in a private den snoozing, like most newborns do, while tended to by their mum, ‘Imandari’.
The cubs had their first veterinarian exam recently. They received a general health check, and had their first round of vaccinations. It was also confirmed that both cubs are male!
Adelaide Zoo Panda Keeper, Constance Girardi, said Imandari’s previous litter of cubs was still living with her, which would normally inhibit pregnancy. The discovery of the new cubs came as a great surprise.
“While we had noticed a few behaviors that could indicate pregnancy early on, these behaviors soon subsided and when the birthing season (usually around December) passed, we assumed she was not pregnant,” Constance said. “You can imagine our surprise when we noticed some extra bedding in the nesting box, and upon discovery, uncovered two very tiny, very cute red fluff balls!”
Constance continued, “Red Panda cubs are born quite underdeveloped, so it was important that we followed a hands-off approach and allow time for them to grow and develop a bond with their mum. Red Pandas are known for their slow rates of reproduction and high infant mortality rates, so to have two litters of cubs born within 13 months is a fantastic result and a testament to Imandari’s stellar mothering skills.”
As the pair grows, they are expected to become more adventurous and confident with their surroundings. Once they start exploring their habitat, visitors can hope to catch a glimpse of the duo.
Despite their name, Red Pandas are more closely related to raccoons than to their black-and-white counterparts. Native to eastern Himalayas and south-western China, Red Pandas spend most of their time in trees eating bamboo and a variety of fruits, leaves and eggs.
Red Pandas are classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. It is estimated there are fewer than 10,000 left in the wild. The major threats facing Red Pandas in the wild are habitat loss and fragmentation, inbreeding depression, and poaching.
New Zealand’s Auckland Zoo is hearing the pitter-patter of fluffy red feet! A Red Panda cub born in mid-January is growing fast, and keepers were able to snap a few quick photos during the cub’s recent weigh-ins.
Photo Credit: Auckland Zoo
At one month old, the little cub weighed about one pound. Bo, the cub’s mother, appears to be taking good care of her cub, because it increased in weight about 25 percent in one week, adding a quarter-pound.
Cubs stay in the nest until they are about three months old, after which they begin exploring the outside world under mom’s watchful eye. At about five to six months old, cubs begin weaning from mother’s milk to bamboo and other leaves, berries, bird eggs, and flower blossoms.
Red Pandas are native to China, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar, where they inhabit cool, temperate bamboo forests. Fewer than 10,000 adult Red Pandas are thought to live in the wild, where they are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The twins were born July 1st to mother, ‘Sophia’. Unfortunately, Sophia was unable to provide adequate care for the pair. Zoo staff intervened and began hand-rearing the cubs.
The Zoo decided to ask the public for help naming the cubs. In October, the winning names were selected, in honor of famous Nebraska natives: ‘Carson’ for television icon, Johnny Carson, and ‘Willa’ for writer, Willa Cather.
Today, the duo is not only thriving, but they are thoroughly enjoying the holiday season, especially the snow!
With four breeding pairs, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has one of the most successful Red Panda breeding programs in the United States. But even strong programs experience challenges: Earlier this year, two Red Panda cubs – named Henry and Tink – almost didn’t make it. But thanks to expert care, these two little ones are thriving, and you can see their story in this video.
Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo
Henry was so sick at birth that keepers weren’t sure he’d survive his first day of life. Because Henry is genetically valuable to the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, the zoo put as many resources as necessary into saving this little cub. Henry stopped breathing, and he was on oxygen for one month. He later overcame a bout of pneumonia, and by the time he was three months old, Henry had increased his weight ten-fold – a huge accomplishment given his rough start in life.
Tink was cared for by her mother for a short time, but she was not growing. Keepers determined that her mother was not producing enough milk. Again, the National Zoo’s staff swung into action and removed Tink from her mother’s care. Today, Tink is gaining weight and growing just as she should.
Henry and Tink are constant companions, and even though Henry is much bigger, the staff says he is extremely gentle with his friend. The two play, explore, and simply hang out together.
You can see Henry and Tink’s story in this web episode of Wild Inside the National Zoo. View the entire series to learn more about the behind-the-scenes operation of the National Zoo.
A Red Panda Cub, at the Kansas City Zoo, recently made his public debut. Born June 17th, the five month old male, named ‘Fei Jai’ (fay-jay), has been behind the scenes since birth, staying close to mom, ‘Gaila’.
Photo Credits: Kansas City Zoo
Fei Jai currently weighs a little over 4 pounds, but considering his birth weight of 4 ounces, he is healthy and developing, as expected. Fei Jei will remain close to his mother until the next mating season begins, and he will reach adult size at about 12 months of age. Like his mother, Gaila, he will be about the size of a house cat, when fully grown.
The curious male cub has just started exploring his exhibit, and he has begun eating the panda staple food, bamboo. Red Pandas primarily eat bamboo leaves and fresh shoots, but they are also known to enjoy berries, blossoms, bird eggs, and small leaves of various other plants. Like all Red Pandas, Fei Jai has a small, bony projection on his wrist that helps him grip bamboo stalks. Giant Pandas also have this thumb-like adaptation.
In 2008, it was determined that approximately 10,000 individual Red Pandas were found globally. Since the population is expected to decline in the future, the Red Panda is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and conservation efforts are in place.
It’s been 18 years since the Belfast Zoo last welcomed a Red Panda cub, so when a baby was born on July 3, it was cause for celebration!
Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo
The female cub was born to mother Plocia and father Chris. Her parents came to Belfast from zoos in Poland and the Netherlands as part of a global collaborative breeding program.
Zoo keepers named the cub Phoenix after a mythological creature associated with fire, a nod to Red Pandas’ nickname of ‘fire fox.’
Red Pandas are born blind and develop very slowly. Phoenix has stayed in her nest box since birth but recently ventured out for the first time to explore her enclosure with Plocia. Zoo keepers had just enough time to take a few photos before Phoenix and Plocia returned to the safety of the nest box.
When not foraging for food on the ground, Red Pandas spend most of their time in the trees. Sharp claws make them agile climbers and long, striped tails aid in balance. Red Pandas are native to the Himalayas in Bhutan, Southern China, Pakistan, India, Laos, Nepal and Burma but it is believed that there could be fewer than 2,500 in the wild.
Zoo Manager Mark Challis said, “Red Panda numbers are declining quite dramatically and they are already extinct in some areas of China, where they were once historically found. We are all delighted to welcome Phoenix to the zoo family and we are proud to be playing an active role in the conservation of the Red Panda.”
A baby Red Panda has arrived at Franklin Park Zoo! Born on June 19, the male cub stayed in the nest box for about 90 days with his mother, Carys, and is just now peeking out to greet zoo visitors.
Photo Credit: Franklin Park Zoo (1,2,4); Melissa Durham (3)
The cub was recently given access to the outdoor exhibit, which means he can choose to stay indoors or outdoors. A video monitor allows zoo visitors to see the cub in the nest box if he is not outdoors.
“We are thrilled to announce this exciting birth. Carys has proven to be an excellent mother and she is doing everything an attentive Red Panda mother should,” said John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO, who added, “The cub is very curious and it is fun to watch him explore and learn new skills from his mother.”
Zoo New England participates in the Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). SSPs are designed to maintain genetically diverse and demographically stable captive populations of species. This birth is the result of a recommended breeding between Carys and her mate, Yang. This is the first cub for Carys.
Red Pandas live in the cool temperate bamboo forests in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan in China, as well as in the Himalayas and Myanmar. Red Pandas have a small bony projection on their wrists that helps them grip bamboo stalks, which make up a significant portion of their diet. This species is declining and threatened by habitat loss in the wild. Red Pandas are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Lincoln Children’s Zoo, in Nebraska, is excited to announce two new stars in their zoo family, Red Panda twins! The siblings, a boy and a girl, were born July 1st to mother, Sophia.
Photo Credits: Lincoln Children's Zoo
Because the soon-to-be-named duos mother needed intervention with her new babies, they are being hand raised by keepers at the zoo.
The cubs are doing exceedingly well and displaying all the marks of healthy, active siblings. The female cub has a stuffed animal frog she is friends with and loves napping on. The male cub is full of energy, and like a typical brother, loves to pick on his sister. One of his favorite activities is to provoke his sister into a fight and, then, tease her with a hasty retreat.
The female cub will live at the zoo for the next year, and the male will move to another zoo in the coming months. The cub's names will be announced soon!
Native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China, the Red Panda is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Their population in the wild continues to decline due to habitat loss, poaching, and inbreeding depression.