Red Panda Twins Debut at Prospect Park Zoo
November 30, 2015
Two Red Panda cubs, one male and one female, were born at the WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) Prospect Park Zoo this summer and have made their public debut.
Photo Credits: Julie Larsen Maher / WCS
WCS has a successful history breeding Red Pandas at the Bronx, Central Park, and Prospect Park Zoos as part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums designed to enhance the genetic viability and demographic stability of animal populations in accredited zoos.
The Red Pandas at the Prospect Park Zoo, in Brooklyn NY, are a subspecies from the eastern portion of the Himalayas, known as Styan’s Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens styani). Their native habitat is, more specifically, southern China and northern Burma. The subspecies at the Bronx Zoo and Central Park Zoo---Western Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens fulgens)---is found in the western part of their Himalayan range, particularly Nepal, Assam, Sikkim, and Bhutan.
Styan’s Red Panda has been distinguished in some studies as having a longer winter coat, bigger skull, more strongly curved forehead, and darker coloring than the Western Red Panda.
Female Red Pandas are only fertile for just one day a year and can delay implantation until conditions are favorable. They give birth to between one and four young at a time, and the cubs are born with pale fluffy fur, which becomes coarser and darkens to the distinctive red coloration of the adults over the first three months. The cubs reach adulthood at around 18 months.
Red Pandas have an adaptation on their wrists that acts much like a thumb and enables them to grasp food items like bamboo as well as tree branches.
Red Pandas are listed as “Endangered” by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss caused by deforestation for timber, fuel and agricultural use. Despite international efforts, their population in the wild has plausibly declined by 50% over the last three generations (about 18 years).
WCS works in China and Myanmar to help save Red Pandas and other Asian wildlife.