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Belfast Zoo Celebrates the First Red Panda Birth in 18 Years [VIDEO]

First Posted: Oct 09, 2014 04:56 AM EDT

Belfast zoo welcomed its first baby red panda in over 18 years, born after a gestation period of 135 days.

A female red panda cub was born at the Belfast zoo to mother Plocia and father Chris on July 2014 after a gestation period of 135 days.

Plocia arrived at the zoo from Plock Zoo in Poland in 2010 and Chris arrived from Beekse Bergen Safari Park in 2013. The two were paired as part of the global and collaborative breeding programme.

Zoo curator Julie Mansell is delighted with the latest arrival; she said: "Red panda are also referred to as 'fire foxes' and for this reason her keepers decided to name her 'Phoenix'. These mythological creatures rise from the ashes of fire and it seemed a fitting name for this special arrival."

Baby red panda cubs are born blind and they develop gradually and slowly. The newly born cub has stayed in her nest since her birth, but recently the officials have noticed her stepping out and exploring the enclosure with her mother. They hope that in the coming few weeks, the panda will spend more time outside the nest, giving the visitors a chance to spot them.

Apart from seeing them forage for food on ground, they are seen spending most of their time on trees. They use their sharp claws to climb the tree and balance themselves with the long striped tail. Mainly found in the Himalayas in Bhutan, Southern China, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Burma, it is estimated that there are less than 2,500 red pandas left in the wild.

Zoo manager Mark Challis said, "Red panda numbers are declining quite dramatically and they are already extinct in some areas of China, where they were once historically found. We are all delighted to welcome Phoenix to the zoo family and we are proud to be playing an active role in the conservation of the red panda."

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