IncREDible Species: The OKC Zoo Celebrates International Red Panda Day

What is that furry creature in the treetops? Is it a bear, a raccoon or maybe a fox? No wait! It’s the elusive red panda! Red pandas are a one-of a-kind species, belonging to their own unique family named Ailuridea. Even though red panda share the name “panda” with giant pandas, they are not related. In fact, red pandas were scientifically documented 50 years before the giant panda in 1825. Red pandas are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with less than 10,000 left in the wild.

Here at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, Sanctuary Asia is home to the Zoo’s two red pandas, eight-year-old, Thomas, and his three-year-old daughter, Khyana. Both Thomas and Khyana can be seen each day exploring, eating, playing and sleeping up in high branches of their habitat.

Red pandas are found in a few Asian countries, including Nepal, India, Bhutan, China and Myanmar. They spend the majority of their time living in Asia’s elevated mountain forests. Red pandas’ thick fur helps them to keep warm in their native habitat. Named for the coloring of their coat, red pandas are experts at camouflaging amongst the trees. In the past few decades, the red panda population has continued to decline rapidly due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. The Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Red Panda Species Survival Plan®   (SSP), a cooperative network that breeds and conserves red pandas worldwide.

The Red Panda Network is a conservation organization devoted to saving red pandas and their habitat through education and awareness. The Red Panda Network is actively working to protect and restore red panda habitat, while encouraging the world to advocate for this species. Red pandas have an important role in their habitat range and are considered an umbrella species, meaning that by conserving red pandas, other species such as clouded leopards also benefit.

On Saturday, September 18, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Zoo is partnering with Bob Moore Subaru to host International Red Panda Day. For this animal awareness event, the Zoo is supporting the Red Panda Network to raise awareness for red pandas. Guests are encouraged to show their love for red pandas by dressing in red. By learning fun facts and channeling their creativity, guests can complete challenges and become a certified Red Panda Ranger. Guests who complete the activities will be entered into a drawing to win a one-of-a-kind painting, created by the Zoo’s red panda family. Throughout the day, there will be opportunities to observe special training and enrichment sessions, as well as chat with caretakers.

So how can you help red pandas? You can make a difference by visiting AZA-accredited zoos, celebrating what makes red pandas unique and inspiring others to care about them. Together we can protect red panda habitat and conserve their species. We hope to see you at the Zoo’s panda party on Saturday, September 18th.

Photos: Ambre, carnivore caretaker

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