Sunday, July 6, 2014

We got us some Red Panda babies at the National Zoo!!!!!

Actually, all four Red Panda pairs had cubs this year. The latest births were three cubs, born to mama Shama and papa Rusty. (Rusty gained national attention after he escaped in 2013.) Shama, an experienced mother, gave birth to three cubs on June 26. This is the first litter Rusty has sired.

Other Red Panda births at the National Zoo this year include two cubs born May 27 to female Yanhua and male Sherman (their first litter); two more cubs born June 16 to female Regan and male Rocco (their second litter); two cubs born to female Low Mei and male Angus June 18 (not sure if she's birthed before).

Although humans call them both "pandas", the Red Panda and the Giant Panda are completely unrelated, genetically.

Red pandas typically give birth to one to four cubs each year. Cubs stay in the nest for about 90 days and remain with their mothers until the next mating season -- which is when they reach adult size. Red pandas eat primarily bamboo, but they also consume eggs, birds, insects, and small mammals. Red Pandas are solitary, and mainly active at night. Red pandas live in cool-to-temperate bamboo forests in China, Nepal, and Myanmar. There are fewer than 10,000 red pandas left in the wild, and they are listed as a "Vulnerable" species. due to extreme habitat loss.

In the wild, 70 percent of Red Panda cubs die within five days of birth. Thirty percent of those who survive are dead within a year. Red Panda mothers usually build three or four nests before giving birth. Most of these are high off the ground, and cubs can fall from nests and die. Red Pands moms are VERY easily disturbed, and any human activity, noise, or movement can make them nervous and cause them to move their cubs frequently from nest to nest. Movement causes the mother to produce less milk, and can cause accidents are cubs are moved out of their high nests -- both of which can led to the death of the cub. Some Red Panda mothers don't produce enough milk, and some engage in excessive grooming of their cubs that cause injury and death. Red Panda cubs suck very, very strongly, and sometimes aspirate milk into their lungs and die. Red Pandas suffer from heat stress, and a too-warm nest can kill cubs. Cubs are prone to urinary tract infections, and some Red Panda mothers defecate during labor. Both can cause infections that kill cubs. And some Red Panda mothers are simply poor moms, and can abandon their cubs. Red Panda cubs do not easily or swiftly adapt to new foods, so weaning them can be difficult and they can starve if the mother suddenly stops providing milk.

Even in zoos, with keepers cleaning and air-conditioning and helping care for abandoned cubs, the mortality rate for Red Panda cubs is 50 percent in the first five days and 30 percent within the first year.

The Smithsonian National Zoo has a better record of helping Red panda cubs survive than most zoos. More than 100 cubs have been born at the zoo, and 60 have survived. Of the 10 cubs born in 2014, seven have survived.

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