Woodland Park Zoo’s three-week-old Red Panda cubs had their second neonatal exam this week and the female twins are healthy and thriving. The cubs were born on June 19 to two-year-old mom Hazel and 14-year-old dad Yukiko. The last successful birth of Red Pandas at the zoo was in 1989.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
The exam was performed by the zoo’s veterinary team as a part of the zoo’s exemplary care program for its 1,200 animals. Born at about five ounces each, the cubs now weigh just over a pound. “We’re pleased with this weight gain, which means both cubs continue to nurse and have healthy appetites. Their eyes are not open yet but they are quite vocal as cubs should be,” said Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health.
Hazel, a first-time mom, lives in a private indoor, climate-controlled habitat, which provides a quiet environment where she can bond with her cubs. Because Red Pandas normally live alone, except for mothers with cubs, the dad remains separated from the new family.
“We continue to monitor mom and cubs via a den cam to ensure they are thriving and we have minimal physical contact with the family,” said Mark Myers, a curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “The cubs are crawling and are capable of rolling over to upright positions. In another week or so, we should begin seeing continued motor skill development. This first month for newborn Red Pandas is an important time and our twins are on target with important developmental milestones.”
The zoo anticipates putting Hazel and her cubs on exhibit for guests to see by mid-October. “Timing will depend on their ability to safely navigate elevated branches, trees and other exhibit features. Because Red Pandas live in high-altitude temperate forests with bamboo understories in the Himalayas and high mountains, they are very comfortable in the coldest of conditions throughout the winter,” explained Myers. The community will be invited to participate in a public naming later this summer.
Red Pandas share the name of Giant Pandas, but recent studies suggest they are closely related to Skunks, Weasels and Raccoons. An endangered species, fewer than 10,000 Red Pandas remain in their native habitat of bamboo forests in China, the Himalayas and Myanmar, and share part of their range with Giant Pandas. Their numbers are declining due to deforestation, increased agriculture and cattle grazing, and continuing pressure from growing human populations.
Woodland Park Zoo supports the Red Panda Network, whose multi-prong approach aims to conserve this flagship species in Nepal.