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Joburg Zoo's successful Red Panda breeding programme

Since December 2010 Curator of Primates, Katherine Visser has been busy hand-rearing some of the Zoo's most important animals. From feisty BG, the honey badger to three adorable red panda cubs, Poonya, Rom and Arun. BG (AKA Badger Girl) is growing up fast and currently spending her days in the zoo's farm yard section, while the three red panda cubs at only 2 and 3 months old still need around the clock care. During the day this job is primate keeper Sharon's responsibility, while at night its Katherine's job to give the babies there evening and night feed.

Hand-rearing red panda’s may be hard work but it definitely isn’t the worst job in the world. As Katherine explains “the cubs are like fluffy teddy bears. It’s hard not to fall in love.” But all this fun and hard work has a much more serious purpose. Red Pandas are considered vulnerable in their native land China with fewer than 10 000 individuals in the wild. Joburg Zoo is part of an international breeding programme ensuring the gene pool of these inquisitive animals stays strong, so that one day their offspring can be released back into the wild.

The Joburg Zoo has strict criteria for hand raising any animal and unfortunately in the case of these three cutie pies, they had to be hand reared due to the health of their mothers’. In the case of Rom and Arun their mother became seriously ill after they were born. Poonya who is also a twin had to be taken away from his mother and brother because his mother did not have enough milk for the both of them.

Fortunately for all the cubs, they will continue to be well cared for in the months to come and hopefully they too will join the Red Panda breeding programme and help guarantee Red Panda’s will be around for generations to come. Adopt a Red Panda and support animals like Poonya, Rom and Arun. For more information visit www.jhbzoo.org.za or email info@jhbzoo.org.za

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