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The Birmingham Zoo in Alabama is now home to the first Red Panda cubs born in the US this year. Born May 30, the two cubs currently are off-exhibit with mom. This is the first litter for the mother, three-year-old Sorrel and father, four-year-old Shifu. This was a significant birth as Red Pandas are a threatened species with fewer than 2,500 adults left in the world, according to The Birmingham Zoo. 

Sorrel is very protective of the cubs and is nursing regularly. This is very encouraging and staff are working hard to ensure that Sorrel has everything she needs to care for her new family. When born in human care, Red Panda cubs have a 50 percent mortality rate (the mortality rate in the wild is unknown), so it is wonderful news that the first-time mom is caring for her cubs so well.

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Photo Credit: Birmingham Zoo

Red Pandas are quite delicate at birth and stay close to their mothers until they are around three months old. As long as things continue to go well, visitors can expect to see the cubs in the fall when they start to venture away from the den. For now, there is a live monitor of the pandas at the zoo's Red Panda exhibit.

The breeding that led to this birth is part of the American Zoological Association’s Species Survival Plan, a nationally-coordinated effort to save threatened and endangered animals from extinction. In the wild, Red Pandas live in the bamboo forests of China, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, and Nepal. While they share some habitat with the Giant Panda, the two species are not related. Red Pandas are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Vulnerable, a ranking one step down from Endangered. According to the IUCN, deforestation is the greatest threat to this species.