Debrecen Zoo Welcomes 1st Ever Red Panda Cub

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A red panda cub was born at the Debrecen Zoo, marking the 80th birth in Europe in the past year while also contributing to the survival of this endangered species.

Celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, Debrecen Zoo announced to visitors the news of a long-awaited special arrival, as Maci the female red panda gave birth to her first healthy offspring on June 18.

Having just turned five weeks old, the young panda is getting bigger and stronger by the day, now weighing 410 grams, and was found out to be a female during her first ever veterinary examination earlier today. Soon to be named with the help of the public, Debrecen’s first red panda cub will soon be seen more and more often in the family enclosure to the delight of the zoo’s visitors.

According to the statement released by Debrecen Zoo, “This amazing birth is the result of an exact decade of preparations as construction.”

The zoo further detailed that “[The construction] of a red panda enclosure at Zoo Debrecen started in 2013, followed by the arrival of a pair of twins named Pici and Maci from Zoo d’Asson in France. The next step in the international breeding program, a young male called Pandita was transferred in summer 2020 as a suitable mate. With this success achieved in just two years of being home to a breeding pair, Debrecen Zoo is very proud to have contributed to the European insurance population and the survival of this fantastic species.”

Native to montane forests in the Himalayas, Northern Burma and the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, red pandas are the only existing members of the family Ailuridae. Their scientific name, Ailurus fulgens standing for “shining red cat,” comes from 19th-century French zoologist Frederic Cuvier, who was fascinated by their cat-like features and striking coloration.

The word “panda,” presumably originating from the Nepalese for “bamboo eater,” was originally used for red pandas and was only given to giant pandas later based on similarities in their diet.

Red pandas mainly feed on bamboo leaves and shoots, gripping stalks easily with the help of thumb-like extended wrist bones. Due to drastic habitat loss and captures for the illegal trade, their numbers have dwindled to an estimated 10,000 individuals in the wild, hence their classification as “endangered” in the IUCN Red List.

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