A rare Red Panda cub has been born at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park, in the UK, after keepers launched an international “lonely-hearts ad” to find a mate for the cub's father. It’s the first time the famous Wiltshire safari park has successfully bred Red Pandas, and keepers are delighted with how well the cub, which has yet to be named, is doing.
Dad Ajenda, which means ‘King of the Mountain’, came to Longleat from Germany in 2012, and mum Rufina, meaning ‘red-haired’, arrived from Italy just over a year later, following an appeal by keepers. The birth is particularly welcome as this particular pairing is deemed to be critical to the ongoing success of European Endangered Species Programme for the Red Panda.
Like their famous, but unrelated, namesakes the Giant Pandas, Red Pandas are increasingly endangered in the wild. The species was officially designated as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2008 when the global population was estimated at about 10,000 individuals. A ‘Vulnerable’ species is one which has been categorized as likely to become ‘Endangered’ unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
“We’re delighted with how well Rufina is looking after the young cub, and both mother and baby are doing brilliantly,” said keeper Robert Curtis.
“Cubs don’t tend to start venturing out on their own for the first three months, and Rufina, like all Red Panda mums, regularly moves the cub to different nesting areas. This is perfectly natural behavior but makes keeping track of the baby...somewhat problematic for us!” Curtis added.
Like Giant Pandas, about two-thirds of their food intake is made up of bamboo. Bamboo is not the most nutritious of foods, so they have to eat a lot of it to survive. As it is relatively low in calories, Red Pandas tend to spend much of their time either eating or sleeping.
As well as plain bamboo, keepers at Longleat supplement their panda's diets with a mix of fruits, eggs, insects, and a specially made bamboo cake.