View from the Zoo: Birthday joy for zoo's two red pandas
It has been a double birthday celebration for our cute and popular red pandas as Tai Jang our female turned six on the June 12, and our male Bai Jiao was six on June 14.
They received their favourite ‘panda cake’ which consists of a variety of nutrients including protein, essential vitamins, minerals and high fibre. However bamboo, fruits, pellets and other leaves make up a majority of their diet. Their cake this year was in the shape of a red panda.
The name panda is thought to be in reference to the Nepali word ponya from the phrase nigalya ponya, meaning “eater of bamboo”.
Just like the giant panda they share a similar diet but are very different in appearance. Red pandas are slightly more racoon and look fairly similar, they have a lovely red coat and long bushy tail which they can wrap round themselves like a duvet to keep warm. They also use their tails for balance when climbing trees.
If you wish to see our red pandas, then that is always the first place to look! They have semi-retractable claws which also gives them amazing grip and allows them to pull leaves off branches.
Bai Jiao moved here from Cotswold zoo and Tai Jang came here from Leipzig zoo in Germany. They came here as part of the European endangered species programme and previously they have had one cub which has since moved to another zoo.
We train our red pandas every day, encouraging them to come down from the trees, follow a target stick around and be hand fed by our keepers. We do this every day generally around 1.45pm which is the best time for our visitors to see them in action.
Females tend to be more confident and Tai Jang regularly comes down, touches the target stick with her nose and receives a reward. This training technique is called positive reinforcement and can be used for a whole range of species.
Sadly the red panda is an endangered species with fewer than ten thousand left in the wild. They are poached for their fur and also taken from the wild to become part of the illegal pet trade.
Habitat loss is another huge factor in their populations decreasing.