The Virginia Zoo welcomed two male Red Panda cubs in June. Born to two-year-old mom Masu and three-year-old dad Timur, the cubs were born at the Zoo’s Animal Wellness Campus. Red Panda cubs weigh approximately five ounces at birth, but each cub now weighs just over one pound.
Red Panda cubs are particularly vulnerable during their first month of life, and zoo staff members intervene with the cubs as little as possible.
“We wanted to give Masu the best chance possible to successfully birth and raise healthy cubs,” said Dr. Colleen Clabbers, the Zoo’s Veterinarian. “We decided to move Masu to the Wellness Campus while she was still pregnant to give her the privacy and space she needed with as few disturbances and distractions as possible,” Dr. Clabbers added. Red Panda experts have found this species has better success when the mothers are able to give birth and provide the initial few months of care of their cubs off exhibit.
First-time mom Masu gave birth in an indoor, climate-controlled den where she has been nursing and bonding with her cubs in a quiet environment. The den is off view to the public and is monitored by staff. As Masu gets more comfortable allowing people to be near her cubs and the boys can safely navigate the trees and other exhibit features, the three will make their way to the original Red Panda exhibit off the main pathway.
The cubs have not yet been named.
“This is a significant birth for the species as there are less than 10,000 Red Pandas left in the wild,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “There has been a sharp decline in their population due to a loss of nesting trees and food resources in their native region, they are also hunted for their pelts. We are excited for the terrific care Masu has been providing for her cubs and look forward to having them on exhibit later this year,” Bockheim added.
Red Pandas are tree-dwelling mammals native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. Slightly larger than a domestic Cat and with markings similar to Raccoons, Red Pandas have soft, dense reddish-brown and white fur. They feed mainly on bamboo, but also various plant shoots, leaves, fruit, and insects. Red Pandas are shy and solitary except when mating.
Red Pandas are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.