Chester Zoo’s two Red Panda cubs have been revealed as a boy and a girl, during their first ever health check-up.
The precious twelve-week-old twins, classed by conservationists as endangered in the wild, were born on June 22 to mum, Nima, and dad, Koda, who have kept them tucked up in their nest boxes since birth.
Now, specialist vets and keepers have had their very first look at the delightful duo, examining the pair during the health check, where they were weighed, sexed and vaccinated. Each of the fluffy youngsters was given a full, clean bill of health.
James Andrewes, Assistant Team Manager at the zoo, said, “These Red Panda twins are wonderful, important new additions to the carefully managed breeding programme for the species, which is working to increase the safety-net population in Europe as numbers in the wild continue to decline. Happily, both cubs are developing very well indeed and the health MOTs we’ve been able to perform confirmed that mum Nima is clearly doing a great job of caring for them.”
James continued, “We also discovered the genders of each of the cubs - one male and one female - and returned them to their mum as soon as we’d finished giving them a quick once over. Nima took them straight back to her nest and it’ll be a few weeks now until the cubs start to develop the confidence to come out and explore by themselves. Before they’re able to stand on their own feet, it is though possible that some lucky people will have the occasional glimpse of Nima carrying them from nest to nest by the scruffs of their necks.”
Red Pandas are found in the mountainous regions of Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and southern China where their wild number is estimated at fewer than 10,000 – a 40% decline over the past 50 years.
This decrease is a direct result of human actions, such as widespread habitat destruction, trapping for the illegal pet trade and poaching for their iconic red fur – which in some countries is used to make hats for newly-weds as a symbol of happy marriage.
Conservationists at Chester Zoo have called on the public help to fight the illegal wildlife trade that is driving species to extinction around the world. People can report any suspicious activity they may spot, online or on holiday, via the zoo’s online illegal wildlife trade reporting form: www.chesterzoo.org/illegalwildlifetrade
In recent years, Chester Zoo has been fighting for the future of the Red Panda through habitat-focused conservation projects in the Sichuan Mountains of China, where they can be found among the bamboo forests.
Red Pandas are listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
At first glance, Red Pandas look similar to racoons, having long, bushy tails, patterned with 12 alternating rich, red and buff colored rings. An average adult will be 50-64cm in length and will weigh 3-6kg.
In China, Red Pandas are known as ‘fire foxes’ and are in fact, the original panda. The species was discovered 50 years before the Giant Panda and share the name because of a common ancestor that lived millions of years ago.