There’s never been a Cutest Animal Contest at the zoo, but we’re pretty sure the red pandas would be strong contenders for the title. In fact, “awwww” is the most frequently uttered word at the red panda exhibit!
Male red panda Junjie, age 5, and his mate Xiao, age 4, have distinct personalities. According to zoo keeper Sam Emberton, Junjie is the more cautious of the two. “Junjie prefers to sit and watch before approaching us,” she says. Xiao (pronounced JOW) is also shy, but she gets very interested when keepers arrive with food. “She is very food-motivated, so she is willing to approach us,” Emberton says.
The red pandas are more than just cute critters – they are vulnerable to extinction in their native Himalayan home, which includes parts of China and Nepal. That’s why we’re celebrating International Red Panda Day on Saturday, September 21 from 11 AM – 3 PM.
The red panda population has dwindled more than 40% in the last 50 years, according to some estimates. Illegal hunting, loss of habitat, and competition with domestic livestock pose serious threats to the red pandas’ survival. Only about 10,000 of these bamboo-eating animals remain in the wild.
What is the zoo doing to protect this rare species? By participating in the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, we help manage a genetically diverse zoo-based panda population. (Although Xiao has produced two litters of cubs in 2012 and 2013, none of the cubs survived.) By participating in events like International Red Panda Day, we can help spread the word about these fascinating creatures.
Click on the photos below to enlarge.