Auckland Zoo has welcomed the birth of Nepalese red panda twins; two very valuable additions to the international breeding programme for this threatened species whose population continues to decline in the wild.
The two cubs, born on 3 January (each weighing approximately 100 grams), are the second and third offspring of four-year-old mum Bo and 13-year-old Sagar, who just over a year ago produced their first-born, male Pabu. Dad Sagar, who relocated from India's Darjeeling Zoo in 2010, contributes a particularly valuable new bloodline into the Australasian region.
"These births are fantastic news, both for Australasia and for the wider Global Species Management Plan through which red panda are managed. We're absolutely delighted Bo has had two healthy cubs and that she's proving once again, to be such a confident and attentive mother," says acting Carnivore team leader, Lauren Booth.
"Following Pabu's birth, we've learnt to read Bo's behaviour well so can gauge the best time to check on and weigh the cubs to track their progress, but otherwise remain hands-off. They have now opened their eyes and are moving about in the nest box a little more, and will sometimes 'huff' at us. Their weights have shot up to 403 grams and 423 grams respectively - above average, so we know they're getting plenty to eat, but they still have a lot more growing to do!"
Ms Booth says like one-year-old Pabu, who will relocate to another zoo in Australia within the next six months, the yet-to-be named and sexed cubs will also in time leave Auckland Zoo to contribute to the international breeding programme.
"As zoos we work together to ensure genetic diversity is achieved for insurance populations like the red panda - which is vital, but it is an insurance policy, not a solution. Increasingly, we're part of conservation efforts in the wild. Auckland Zoo continues to grow its support of Red Panda Network, whose outstanding community education and forest guardianship programmes in eastern Nepal (key red panda territory) are playing a vital role in helping protect this species that's threatened by habitat loss and poaching."
Visitors to Auckland Zoo will be able to catch the cubs' parents and older brother Pabu out on display, but the cubs are not expected to venture out of their nest box until they are at least 12 weeks old (sometime in March). Their sex will be confirmed in early March when they have their first vet check.
The yet-to-be-named cubs, whose sex will be confirmed in early March at their first vet check, now weigh 403 grams and 423 grams respectively