Auckland Zoo started the New Year celebrating the arrival of two Nepalese Red Panda cubs. The twins were born just after 3am on January 14, 2016. According to staff, everything is going well with mum and the cubs.
The two are an extremely valuable addition to the international breeding programme for this endangered species.
"By watching the nest box cameras we've set up, we can see they have both been suckling. We couldn't ask for a better mum in Bo," said Carnivore's team leader Lauren Booth.
The twins are the fifth and sixth offspring of six-year-old mum Bo (who arrived at Auckland Zoo in mid-2012) and the last of 15-year-old Sagar, who was euthanized in December 2015.
"The average lifespan of a Red Panda is eight to 12 years, so Sagar reached a great old age for a Red Panda, but due to his age he had developed a spinal condition that was at the point where treatment was not able to increase his quality of life," says Lauren.
"Ever since arriving from Darjeeling Zoo in 2010, he had an amazing personality. He's left a great legacy within the region fathering six cubs over the course of three years. With these two being the last of his legacy with Bo, it was nice to have this positive to focus on as we said a difficult goodbye."
Lauren says that Red Pandas develop slowly and are dependent on Mum for at least three months, so it will be some time before visitors see the cubs venturing out of their nest box and around the enclosure with Bo.
"We're keeping a regular watch on the cubs, but taking a very hands-off approach so Bo can continue to do the great job she's doing, and we minimize any potential stress for her," she says.
Affectionately called 'little fluffs' by the Zoo’s keepers, the pair received their first weigh-in and checkup mid-February. They are being weighed weekly and keepers say they are both doing really well!
Visit Auckland Zoo's facebook page for further details and updates about the cubs.
In the wild, the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) inhabits the Himalayan mountains of China, India and Nepal, where they are threatened by habitat destruction and hunting. They are currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The Red Panda communicates with squeaks, chattering noises and chipmunk-like sounds.
Although it shares the same name, the Red Panda is not related to the Giant Panda. In fact, the Red Panda is not related to any other animals, making it unique.
As with the Giant 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 darkens to the distinctive red coloration of the adults over the first three months.
The Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund supports the Red Panda Network in Nepal, which is working to save the red panda in the wild and preserve habitat through education and empowering local communities. Visit www.redpandanetwork.org