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!
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.”
See more photos of the cub below.