GARDEN CITY — Lee Richardson Zoo is happy, and a bit astounded, to announce the birth of four red panda cubs. Ember, the zoo’s 9-year-old female red panda, gave birth to the cubs on July 17. This is Ember’s sixth litter, and her fifth with Charlie, the zoo’s 6-year-old male, as the sire. The adults have been together since 2014.
The litter size for red pandas ranges between 1 and 4, but singles or twins occur much more often. Only 1% of the red panda litters are quadruplets. Raising triplets or quads is very taxing on the mother, and for this reason, zoo staff are hand-rearing two of the cubs.
“It’s better for pandas to be raised with other pandas, and one of them does have some health challenges. This is the best way to give all four the best chance at thriving,” said Zoo Director Kristi Newland.
While red panda cubs look like miniature versions of the adults, they aren’t very mobile and are born with their eyes closed, so they tend to stay in or near their den for 8-10 weeks after birth. Based on the timing of events with Ember’s previous litters, Animal Care staff expect Ember and the cubs to make their first outdoor appearance sometime in late September or early October. Until then, footage of mom and cubs will be on the zoo Facebook page, YouTube channel, and the zoo’s website, www.leerichardsonzoo.org as well as local cable channel 8.
Superb climbers, red pandas can descend trees headfirst like a squirrel, thanks to a special rotating ankle joint. In the wild, they are found from Nepal to Burma, and into Central China. They are listed as Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) primarily due to the destruction of their habitat for human use (logging, farming, firewood, etc…). There has also been an increase in poaching and trafficking for the pet trade. Visit the zoo’s website (www.leerichardsonzoo.org) or the Red Panda Network (redpandanetwork.org) to learn more about this fascinating species.
Heat stress is a danger for red pandas, so due to the high temperatures Garden City has been having lately, the entire family of red pandas is currently inside their house to avoid any possible heat issues for the cubs.