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Red Panda Double-Trouble at Longleat

1_Baby red pandas at Longleat PIC Ian Turner

A rare set of Red Panda twins has been born at Longleat. It’s only the second time the species has bred successfully at the Wiltshire, UK wildlife attraction.

Twin Red Panda births are extremely rare and keepers are delighted with the pair’s progress. The new arrivals are doubly welcome, as their parents are a key factor in the ongoing success of the European Endangered Species Programme for the Red Panda, due to their diverse genetics.

Dad Ajenda (which means ‘King of the mountain’) arrived at Longleat from Germany in 2012, and mum Rufina (meaning ‘Red-haired’) arrived from Italy just over a year later.

“We’re delighted with how well Rufina is looking after the young cubs, and both mother and babies are doing brilliantly,” said Keeper Sam Allworthy.

“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 cubs to different nesting areas. This is perfectly natural behavior but makes keeping track of the babies, or even confirming what sex they are, somewhat problematic for us, although we are pretty sure both babies are female,” she added.

The species has been recently re-classified as ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); meaning populations are continuing to decline. An ‘Endangered’ species is one which faces a very high risk of extinction in the near future.

2_Close up of one of the red panda twins at Longleat PIC Ian Turner

3_Red panda cub twins at Longleat PIC Ian Turner

4_Mother and baby red pandas at Longleat PIC Ian TurnerPhoto Credits: Ian Turner/Longleat

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 live among bamboo forests and spend much of their time in trees. 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.

Red Pandas are solitary animals, and they only really ever come together to breed. 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.

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 bamboo is relatively low in calories, Red Pandas tend to spend much of their time either eating or sleeping. Keepers at Longleat supplement the diet with a mix of fruits, eggs and the occasional insects, along with a special type of bamboo cake, which the Pandas are especially fond of.

Red Panda Mum, Rufina:

5_Red panda mum Rufina at Longleat PIC Ian Turner