Zoo gives first look at red panda baby

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)  The red panda cub born June 9 at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has passed a critical milestone: It’s lived 30 days.

Photo Courtesy Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
Photo Courtesy Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

Red panda mom Xiao and her mate Junjie had two previous litters in 2012 and 2013. Sadly, none of those cubs survived longer than two weeks.

“About half of all red panda cubs die within 30 days after birth,” Animal Curator Mark Weldon said.  “We are obviously pleased that our cub has made it this far.”

Though the cub has survived the first 30 days, she still faces other hurdles.

“Weaning is a critical time for red panda cubs as they make the transition from mother’s milk to solid food,” explained Lacey.  “Weaning occurs when the cub is five to six months old.”

“This cub is feisty, squirmy, and chubby,” said Zoo Keeper Helena Lacey, who works with the red pandas daily.  The cub has not yet been named.

After the birth of the cub, the zoo has kept Xiao and her baby in an air-conditioned nest box within the red panda exhibit, where Xiao nurses, grooms, and sleeps next to her cub.

Xiao, the red panda at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo.
Xiao, the red panda mommy at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

The zoo keepers monitor the duo via a remote camera mounted in the nest box. Xiao leaves the nest box several times a day to eat and climb in the exhibit while her cub remains in the nest box.

“They sleep most of the time, but we also see Xiao grooming herself and the cub,” said Lacey.

The zoo said this is natural behavior for red pandas, which nest in hollow trees in the wild. Cubs typically remain in the nest box for about three months.

Zoo guests likely won’t see the cub until late August or early September.

To ensure the health of the cub, the zoo distracts Xiao a few times a week with bamboo and weigh the cub, who has not yet been named. The cub has been gaining weight and has more than tripled her weight.

 

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