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.