MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — The “baby boom” continues at the Milwaukee County Zoo! A red panda was born on June 12, the third cub for mom, Dr. Erin, and father, Dash.
According to the zoo, the female cub is part of the Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP), which helps to maintain genetic diversity within red panda populations in AZA-accredited zoos.
The cub, who is not yet named, was born mid-day Sunday, June 12, in an off-exhibit area, in a secluded and quiet nest box. Keepers can closely monitor the nest box with special cameras. At about 24 hours after the birth, the cub weighed 144 grams; on the second day, keepers recorded a weight of 196 grams –weights will continue to be recorded when mom and cub are comfortable with a short separation time to place the cub on a scale.
Keepers report that Dr. Erin and the cub spend almost the entire time together in the nest box. Because Dr. Erin has had previous offspring, she is an experienced mother and is attentive and nurturing toward the cub. Red pandas are also attentive mothers in the wild, keeping the cubs hidden in a nest for the first 2-3 months of life.
The cub now relies on mom for milk, nursing for the first 13-22 weeks of life. At 4-6 months, she’ll begin to wean from mom, and keepers will start to introduce solid food to her, softened in water. She’ll be with mom for the first year of life, following her around the habitat and learning how to climb.
An interesting note from the zoo, the cub does not have red fur when it’s born; rather, it’s gray, and will turn red over the next couple of months. In a few months, the cub will be in the outdoor habitat, visible to the public.
In the wild, red pandas live in the mountains of Nepal, northern Myanmar, and central China. Red pandas are considered endangered due to deforestation, poaching, and trapping. Reliable population numbers are difficult to find due to the pandas’ secretive nature, but it is estimated that only about 2,500 individuals exist in the wild. Because of this low number, every red panda birth is significant.