Taronga’s Red Pandas are quite a sight: with thick russet fur, striped bushy tails, pointed noses and soft white ears, they are highly unusual creatures!
Native to Nepal, China, India and Bhutan, Red Pandas are often found at high altitudes, inhabiting dense bamboo forests in these regions. This vulnerable species is difficult to spot in the wild, so Taronga is fortunate to have two of these beautiful creatures living in their bushy exhibit, next to the Great Southern Oceans precinct.
Mayhem is a "millennium" cub, being born on the 1st of January 2000 and is the father of Seba who is nearing his second birthday. Seba, a Nepalese word for ‘reward’, is the feistier of the two. At nearly 13 years old, Mayhem is a little slower than Seba, but our keepers make sure that he doesn’t miss out on any food Seba manages to find first!
Being nocturnal, Red Pandas are most active throughout the night. During the day they spend the majority of their time sleeping, yet they are always eager to search for delicious treats the keepers have hidden around their exhibit. They are fed up to four times a day, so keepers try to be as creative as possible when putting the menu together.
A Red Panda's diet predominantly consists of bamboo, which doesn’t always provide them with the sustenance they need to stay healthy. The keepers provide the pair with figs, pears, and other fruits and berries to makes sure that they are getting the nutrients that they require.
Coincidentally, visiting lorikeets have taken an interest in the Red Pandas' snacks, and have been known to take a few away. Our keepers have devised a clever strategy to make sure the birds’ mischief doesn’t leave Mayhem and Seba without food, so their lunch is often hidden inside cardboard boxes and paper bags – just like a packed lunch!
Mayhem's old age requires extra protein to be incorporate into his diet. His high-protein porridge is by far his favourite meal, and to mix things up our keepers co-ordinate a mealtime activity for him by rolling the porridge into little balls and placing them around the exhibit. Seba is known to get a little over-excited at mealtime, so the keepers make sure that Mayhem has eaten his porridge first and Seba doesn’t get greedy.
Exciting times are ahead for our Red Pandas as soon Seba will become part of the Australasian Breeding program. Seba was the 45th cub to be born at Taronga Zoo to the conservation program and the regional studbook keeper is currently looking into finding him a female to pair with.
Come down and see the Red Pandas in their exhibit. You’ll see them resting on the trees and hanging off the elevated logs throughout the day, or enjoying their mid-afternoon bamboo or fruit snack.