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Tenzin, Red Panda cub
Photo credit: Bobby-Jo Vial

Tenzin (after the famous Nepalese Mountain climber Tenzin Norgay) and Jishnu (meaning bright or triumphant)
Photo credit: Anders Alexander

Taronga Zoo is seeing red after twin Red Panda cubs have started to emerge from of their warm nestbox to explore their outdoor exhibit with their mum.

The two male cubs, named ‘Jishnu' (meaning bright or triumphant) and ‘Tenzin' (after the famous Nepalese Mountain climber Tenzin Norgay) were born on 8 January this year. Their mum ‘Wanmei' (meaning beautiful) came to Taronga from Erie Zoo in America last year to breed with the Zoo's male ‘Mayhem' and to establish an important new bloodline in the Australasian breeding program. 

The Red Pandas at Taronga Zoo are part of the international breeding program for this endangered species and including the two new arrivals, 43 cubs have been born at Taronga since the program commenced in 1977.

Senior Carnivore Keeper Louise Ginman said: "It is always a time of great celebration when an endangered species is born at Taronga Zoo, especially when they are as charismatic as Red Panda cubs. ‘Wanmei' is a very experienced mother and she is doing a fantastic job rearing her cubs. 

"The cubs are now 12 weeks old and on their last weigh-in they weighed 1.04kg and 871 grams. Red Pandas are excellent climbers and even though their coat is rusty red in colour, they camouflage extremely well high up in the branches and canopy of the trees. Visitors will need to look carefully to try and spot them", said Louise.

‘Jishnu' and ‘Tenzin' will start eating a huge variety of fresh fruit and vegetables soon including apple, pear, melon, kiwi and sweet potato. Fresh browse and leaves such as bamboo will also take up a large part of their diet. 

Taronga's veterinarians have also given the cubs a clean-bill of health after they quickly checked the cubs in their nestbox at eight weeks. The cubs received a general examination which included a vaccination, weigh-in and the insertion of a small micro chip.

Taronga Zoo's Red Panda breeding program is supported by a regional education program in Nepal to teach locals about the devastating effect of harvesting forests for firewood. This reduces the amount of forest available to the Red Pandas for food and refuge. 

Red Pandas, which range across the Himalayan mountains and foothills of northern India, China, Nepal and Bhutan are listed as endangered. It is uncertain how many Red Pandas remain in the wild today, but estimates suggest numbers may be as low as 2500 individuals. They are threatened by illegal hunting and deforestation of their wild habitat.  Remaining populations are fast becoming fragmented and isolated from each other.

The charismatic Red Pandas are sure to be popular with ZooParent animal sponsors and will also be featured on a range of new merchandise in Taronga's ZooShop, including on T-shirts, hats, key-rings and as a plush toy. All profits from the ZooShop go to support the Zoo's work including veterinary care for over 4000 animals at both zoos and to support the conservation endeavours of The Taronga Foundation. 

The Red Pandas at Taronga Zoo are sponsored by Ernst and Young.

Taronga and Western Plains Zoos care for 4000 animals from over 350 species, provide conservation messages to over 1.5 million visitors and conservation education to over 100,000 school students annually. The Zoos also conduct a huge range of conservation research, breeding and in situ projects from Antarctica to Mongolia and throughout Australia and Asia, while providing wildlife health services to thousands of native animals each year.

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