Rare Red Panda Born at Auckland Zoo

First Posted: Jan 21, 2013 09:48 AM EST

The arrival of a rare Nepalese red panda at the Auckland zoo has thrilled zoo authorities, since it is the first red panda born since 2002. Born in the early hours of Dec. 24, 2012, the red panda came as the best Christmas gift to the authorities.

Weighing around 240 grams, the 4-week-old red baby panda is the first offspring of 3-year-old mom Bo and her partner 12-year-old Sagar. The gender of the cub has not been identified as yet. It weighed just 105 grams at birth. The cub is an extremely valuable addition to the international breeding program for its threatened species.

Bo was welcomed at the Auckland Zoo in mid-2012, and Sagar arrived in 2010 from Darjeeling Zoo to breed in exchange of Khosuva, a female red panda who was paired up with a breeding male as part of Project Red Panda in Darjeeling. The other two red pandas at the Auckland zoo are Maya, a 16-year-old panda, and her 12-year-old daughter Amber.

"We're absolutely stoked. This birth is a fantastic result, especially as Bo was only introduced to Sagar last August, and given female red pandas come into season just twice a year and a male has only a one to two-day window to mate a female. We couldn't ask for a better mum in Bo. She's doing an exceptional job, staying in the nest box for long periods and feeding her cub up to six times a day, and being very attentive," the zoo's carnivore team leader, Bruce Murdock, said in a press statement.

Red pandas reside in the temperate forests of Southwestern China, the Himalayas and Nepal. The red panda (firefox) is often referred to as the lesser panda. It has been defined as vulnerable by the IUCN. Its population faces threat from illegal hunting and deforestation.

According to Chris Hibbard, who is the executive director of the Australasian Zoo Aquarium Association (ZAA) and species coordinator for red panda, the panda's birth is a milestone event. Simultaneously, it is a significant element of the global breeding efforts assisted by the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria.

Hibbard concluded saying, "Thanks to Auckland's initiative with Darjeeling Zoo and this successful breeding with a very genetically valuable male, internationally we're able to build on our efforts to preserve a genetically representative insurance population."

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