Friday, 28 Sep 2012
A new panda pair has arrived at the Highland Wildlife Park. But no, not the famous black and white giant panda couple living at Edinburgh Zoo…but another set of bamboo munching animals - a red panda duo!
The red panda pair is made up of female Kitty and male Kevyn, both just one year old, the colourful new couple have settled in well together to their new home in the Scottish Highlands. Kitty was first to arrive at the Park, followed shortly after by Kevyn. Although naturally shy animals, the duo are very playful with each other and can be spotted following one another through the enclosure or sitting eating bamboo together.
As a threatened species in the wild, it is hoped that the young pair will go on to have cubs that will add to the European Breeding Programme that ensures the long term conservation of the species.
Red pandas, also known as fire foxes, are natives to the Himalayas in Nepal, Bhutan, India and southern China. Red with long bushy striped tails, pointy ears and distinctive white face markings.
Although much smaller than giant pandas, red pandas enjoy feeding on bamboo just as much, however their diet is more varied and includes fruit, roots, succulent grasses, acorns, lichens, bird eggs, insects, and grubs. These pandas were once thought to be direct relatives of the giant pandas as they also have opposable thumbs - very handy for holding bamboo stems - however in reality the red panda is a relative of the racoon family.
Red pandas are ideally adapted for life in a cold climate, with thick fuzzy fur and bear-like feet that help keep them insulated on snowy or icy ground, as well as a long bushy tail that acts like a blanket.
David Barclay, senior animal keeper at Highland Wildlife Park, said:
"We're delighted to welcome red pandas Kitty and Kevyn to their new home in the Highlands. Although one of the smaller carnivore species we have at the Park, they're certainly one of the big favourites with visitors.
"Red pandas are not related to the much larger giant pandas as many people think, although they share their name with them and are also lovers of bamboo, however they're actually part of the racoon family. Red pandas are also instantly recognisable due to their bright red fur - from which they take their name.
"Kitty and Kevyn are still youngsters at just over a year old, although come the start of next year we hope they will become more interested in each other. These striking animals are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN and, although several zoos hold this species, they can be difficult to breed. Here at the Highland Wildlife Park we're hopefully that the pair will mate and eventually breed, as so far we're seeing all the right behavioural signs from the pair. They're getting on well together and we'll be keeping our fingers crossed that red panda cubs will make an appearance in the not too distant future."
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