A rare set of red panda twins has been born at Longleat. It’s only the second time the species, which is endangered in the wild, has bred successfully at the Wiltshire wildlife attraction. Twin red panda births are extremely rare and keepers are delighted with the pair’s progress.
The new arrivals are doubly welcome as their parents are a key factor in the ongoing success of the European Endangered Species Programme for the Red Panda due to their diverse genetics.
Dad Ajenda, which means ‘King of the mountain’, came to Longleat from Germany in 2012 and mum Rufina, meaning ‘Red-haired’, arrived from Italy just over a year later.
“We’re delighted with how well Rufina is looking after the young cubs, and both mother and babies are doing brilliantly,” said Keeper Sam Allworthy.
“Cubs don’t tend to start venturing out on their own for the first three months and Rufina, like all red panda mums, regularly moves the cubs to different nesting areas.
“This is perfectly natural behaviour but makes keeping track of the babies, or even confirming what sex they are, somewhat problematic for us, although we are pretty sure both babies are female,” she added.
Like their famous, but unrelated, namesakes the giant pandas, red pandas remain under threat in the wild. The species has been recently re-classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning populations are continuing to decline. An ‘endangered’ species is one that faces a very high risk of extinction in the near future.
Found in Nepal, Bhutan and China, red pandas live among bamboo forests and spend much of their time in trees. In the wild, red pandas are solitary animals, and they only really ever come together to breed. Like giant pandas, about two-thirds of their food intake is made up of bamboo. Bamboo is not the most nutritious of foods so they have to eat a lot of it to survive. As it is relatively low in calories, red pandas tend to spend much of their time either eating or sleeping.
Keepers also supplement their diet with a mix of fruit, eggs and the occasional insects along with a special type of bamboo cake that the pandas are especially fond of.