The Red Panda has been listed as a vulnerable species with a decrease in population of over 40 per cent in the last 50 years. Massive habitat loss in its native range across Nepal, China, India, Myanmar and Bhutan and an increase in human activities such as poaching. The rapid growth of human populations has increased the pressure on land for use in farming and housing and has created a great demand for firewood. This has fragmented the temperate forests, which in turn has segregated Red Panda populations and increased the risk of inbreeding within these smaller groups.
Taronga Zoo participates in a co-ordinated world-wide breeding program for Red Pandas. The aim of the program is to provide an insurance population that is suitable for reintroduction into the wild, in the event of severe population decline. In 2003, two zoo-bred pandas from an Indian Zoo were released into the wild in India, as a trial for subsequent releases. Both pandas interacted naturally with their wild counterparts. While one was lost to a predator, the other female mated with a wild male and gave birth to a cub in July 2004. This provides encouragement for the future reintroduction of this species, if required. Taronga Zoo and other Australasian zoos participating in the breeding program have enjoyed great success, and have provided detailed information on husbandry techniques to zoos around the world.
The first pair of Red Pandas arrived at Taronga Zoo from Rotterdam Zoo, Holland, in February 1977. Taronga Zoo has been successfully breeding Red Pandas ever since, as well as transferring pandas to other zoos in accordance with the strategic plans of the breeding program.