Keepers at Adelaide Zoo in Australia made the surprise discovery of a pair of red panda cubs on January 28 while conducting a routine clean of the red panda night quarters.
Keepers had ruled out the cub’s mother, Imandari, being pregnant as her previous litter were still with her which normally inhibits breeding. When the breeding season passed in December without cubs they certainly weren’t expecting any this year.
Keeper, Constance Girardi said, “While we had noticed a few behaviours that could indicate pregnancy early on, these behaviours soon subsided and when the birthing season (usually around December) passed, we assumed she was not pregnant.”
“You can imagine our surprise when we noticed some extra bedding in the nesting box, and upon discovery, uncovered two very tiny, very cute red fluff balls!”
Yesterday the cubs received a veterinary exam and their first round of vaccinations. At this time they were also given a general health check and their genders were determined as both being male.
Girardi praised the mothering skills of Imandari saying, “Red Pandas are known for their slow rates of reproduction and high infant mortality rates, so to have two litters of cubs born within 13 months is a fantastic result and a testament to Imandari’s stellar mothering skills.”
It is because of this slow reproduction rate along with habitat loss and poaching that red panda numbers have fallen below 10,000 in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed them as vulnerable to extinction.
While the cubs grow keepers will be taking a hands off approach, “Red Panda cubs are born quite underdeveloped, so it was important that we followed a hands-off approach and allow time for them to grow and develop a bond with their mum,” added Girardi.
Red Pandas come from the eastern Himalayas and south-Western China. Most of their time is spent in the trees where they feed on fruits, leaves, eggs and of course bamboo. While they are called pandas they are more closely related to the racoon than the giant panda.
Photo Credit: Adelaide Zoo