The fluffle is real! Two Red Panda cubs were born at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on June 20.
The cubs, both male, are snug in their nest box under the care of their mother, Xue Li. These are Xue Li’s first cubs.
Red Panda cubs typically remain in the next box for the first three months of life. Mom may occasionally carry the cubs in her mouth from one nest box to another during this time. The zoo staff does not intervene in the cubs’ care except to perform occasional checkups and weigh the cubs to monitor their progress. At their most recent weigh-in, the cubs weighed about two pounds each. Adult Red Pandas weigh eight to 14 pounds.
Mom Xue Li was born at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2013. Her mate, Firecracker, age 11, previously lived at the Buffalo Zoo and the Greenville Zoo. Their pairing was recommended by the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, a program that aims to maximize genetic diversity in threatened populations under human care. These two male cubs will make important genetic contributions to the zoo-dwelling Red Panda population when they are paired with unrelated females in a few years.
Feeding mainly on bamboo, Red Pandas are most active at night and sleep much of the day. They prefer to rest on tree branches and are quite comfortable outdoors in very cold weather.
Red Pandas are native only to the Himalayan Mountains in southwestern China. They are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to the consistent decline in their wild population, which numbers only 10,000 mature individuals. As Red Pandas’ habitat is lost and fragmented into smaller and smaller tracts, the population shrinks and the effects of inbreeding, such as lowered fertility, further the decline.