Longleat welcomed twin red panda cubs two weeks ago and mum Rufina has already been spotted taking one of her tiny new arrivals outside for the first time.
Rufina and dad Ajendra are important members of a European breeding programme for the species, which is officially recognised as endangered in the wild. The pair have raised six cubs together since arriving at the Wiltshire wildlife attraction in 2015.
“Rufina and Ajendra are both such fantastic parents that we pretty much leave them to it and try to interfere as little as possible,” said Keeper Sam Allworthy.
“Cubs don’t tend to start venturing out on their own for the first three months but 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,” she added.
Found in Nepal, Bhutan and China, red pandas live among bamboo forests and spend much of their time in trees, being solitary animals that only really ever come together to breed. Like their famous namesakes the giant pandas, red pandas are increasingly endangered in the wild with only an estimated 10,000 individuals remaining.
About two-thirds of their food intake is made up of bamboo, although this is not the most nutritious of foods so they have to eat a lot of it to survive. As well as plain bamboo keepers at Longleat also supplement the red pandas diet with a mix of fruits, eggs and the occasional insects – as well as a special bamboo mix cake on ocassions.
For more information on visiting Longleat go to www.longleat.co.uk