The red panda comes from the mountainous regions throughout Burma, Nepal and Central China. Due to habitat destruction, slow breeding and a high infant mortality rate has led to this species being listed as vulnerable to extinction.
Karen Rice, the zoo’s carnivore supervisor said ““Red panda mothers are very prone to stress and easily agitated, which could cause them to reject or unintentionally harm the cubs.” As such keepers took extra precautions added Rice, “Because of the high infant mortality rate, we took every precaution possible to ensure the baby was delivered and cared for safely.”
To make sure it went well keepers “denned” her up in an area where she would feel at ease and be comfortable. This was done months before the birth said Rice, “We anticipated a late June/early July birth so we denned up our female in May. She was confined in the building that she is used to and provided with a choice of nest boxes and most importantly – air conditioning!”
Using video cameras in the den keepers could keep the panda under a watchful eye up until the birth without disturbing her. They also wanted to check on important milestones such as the cub nursing or issues such as over grooming by the mother.
Rice say’s keepers decided this was working so it has continued, “After our female gave birth we made the decision to continue our hands-off approach since all was going so well.”
Recently the cub had a visit from the vet for her 1 month check. “At one month of age, we did our first neonate exam and determined the cub to be female, in good health and weighing just under two pounds. The cub and mom both did well and were happily reunited right after,” said Rice.
The red panda’s at the zoo form part of a species survival plan run by the American Zoological Association. This aims to breed pandas in a way which maintains health and to make the population self-sustaining and genetically diverse.
The cub will live at the zoo till one year of age when she will move to another zoo to breed. She is planned to make her debut in the fall with a naming contest scheduled some time in the future. The zoo will provide updates on these milestones.
Photo Credit: Nashville Zoo