Keepers at Chester Zoo, in the UK, were happily surprised by the arrival of two new Red Panda cubs!
The cubs recently had their first health check-up, and are doing very well. The Red Panda twins, a boy and a girl, were born on June 27 to first-time mother, Nima, and dad, Jung. Keepers were alerted to their arrival after hearing “little squeaks” from inside their nesting box. Keeper Maxine Bradley said, “Our two cubs are in very good shape. They’re big and strong with very thick fur. Our male weighed in at just under 1kg (2.2 lbs) and our female 842g (1.9 lbs). We’re really pleased with how well they’re doing, and as soon as we had given them a health check, we popped them back into their nest. It’ll be several weeks until they start to emerge and explore.”
Red Pandas, whose scientific name Ailurus fulgens means ‘brilliant cat’, are native to the steep forested slopes of the Himalayas. They are a one-of-a-kind in the animal kingdom as they have no close living relatives. According to the IUCN Red List, they are classified as “Vulnerable”. There are estimated to be less than 10,000 individuals in the wild, with a projected decline of 10% within the next 30 years.
Not only has Chester Zoo been successful at breeding Red Pandas, but the zoo also plays an important role in helping safeguard the future of this rare species in its Chinese homeland. The zoo supports the Sichuan Forest Biodiversity Project in the Sichuan Mountains of China, where Red Pandas are found in the wild. The future survival of the species is increasingly vulnerable as developers are taking over the bamboo forests which they depend on to live. Bamboo is the main food in their daily diet. They're also hunted for their prized red fur, which in parts of the world is used to make hats for newly-weds. Some indigenous people believe the fur symbolizes a happy marriage.
Chester Zoo is a registered conservation charity that supports projects around the world and in the UK. Through its wildlife conservation campaign, Act for Wildlife, the zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction.