Apparently the best things come to those that wait and keepers at Banham Zoo have certainly had to wait for their latest new baby, a red panda, to put in an appearance. The infant was born in July but as is normal for the species, the young spend their first three months of life safe inside one of the nest boxes provided for them before venturing outside.
The zoos current pair of red panda have been together since their male, Jasper, joined female, Maggie, last year, a transfer that was requested by the European Breeding Programme Coordinator and although Maggie had bred with her previous partner there was no guarantee of success again this year.
However, keepers at the zoo were fairly sure that Maggie was pregnant again this year and kept a very close eye on her; as with her previous birth, once the presence of the new infant was confirmed a completely hands off approach was adopted for fear of disturbing Maggie during the critical early rearing stage.
Keepers have managed to get an occasional glimpse of the infant to ensure that all was well and that it was developing properly but maintained their hands off approach, just waiting for the day when the infant was confident enough to leave the confines of the nest box.
Maggie has proved to be an excellent mother again but is now spending increasing amounts of time away from the nest box and the cub, keepers are therefore expecting to see the cub follow suit and join its parents in the enclosure any day, eagle-eyed keepers and guests may have already caught sight of the cub as it has started to reveal itself on occasions in the nest box entrance.
Red pandas are native to China, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal and were reclassified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2015 as an endangered species, elevating its status from vulnerable. Numbers are estimated to have decreased by as much as 50% over the last 18 years due to massive habitat loss, increased human activity and poaching.
Animal Manager, Mike Woolham said, “We are delighted to have bred red pandas again, they are a flagship species for other lesser known species that live in south-east Asia and we hope that our latest arrival may throw the spotlight on the plight of this species and others that are under severe threat in this region.”
Red pandas are managed as a European and International studbook and the birth and sex of the infant will enable the coordinator to consider him or her in any future breeding recommendations for this species. The cub will remain at the zoo for at least a year until it is transferred to another EAZA zoo at the request of the studbook coordinator for this species. The cub will most likely join another of the opposite sex, making up a new pair of red pandas to help ensure that the species continues to thrive in captivity, providing a safety net population for its cousins in the wild and the zoo is delighted to once again be playing its part to ensure the survival and conservation of this and other species.
 IUCN Red Data List
 European Association of Zoos and Aquaria