OKC Zoo Welcomes Two Red Pandas

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is pleased to announce the addition of red pandas, Thomas, 4, and Leela, 3, to its animal family. They join Jaya, a 10-year-old female who has been at the OKC Zoo since 2011.

Jaya’s offspring Wasabi, a female born in 2016, is relocating to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium as part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommendation to help promote genetic diversity through species management. Wasabi was the fifteenth red panda cub born at the OKC Zoo since its Red panda program began in 1988.

Red panda Thomas, 4, comes to the OKC Zoo from the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. Red panda Leela, 3, was born at the Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, California, in 2014 and moved to the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium in 2015. Their relocation to the OKC Zoo was also a SSP recommendation.

SSP programs were developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help oversee the husbandry and breeding management and, as a result, the sustainability of select animal species within AZA-member institutions, including the OKC Zoo. Many of these programs help enhance conservation efforts of these species in the wild as well.

Red pandas are listed as an endangered species. Only an estimated 10,000 remain in the wild, and their habitats in remote areas of the Himalayan Mountains, from Nepal to central China, are being threatened by deforestation, agriculture, cattle grazing and competition for resources. In addition to a taste for bamboo, red pandas consume many other types of food including fruits, acorns, roots and eggs.

Red pandas grow to be about the size of a typical house cat. Their bushy, ringed tails add about 18 inches to their length and serve as a type of blanket, keeping them warm in cold mountain climates. Though previously classified as a relative of the giant panda, and also of the raccoon, with which it shares a ringed tail, red pandas are currently considered members of their own unique taxonomic family—the Ailuridae.

Thomas and Leela will be viewable to Zoo guests beginning this spring at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Stay tuned to the Zoo’s social media channels and blog for updates.

Photo credit: Virginia Zoo and Charles Paddock Zoo

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