Meet NZ's new red panda twins

Last updated 10:02 29/01/2014

SNUGGLE TIME: It's siesta o'clock for the twins.

WIDE EYED: The twins were only around 100 grams when born.

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Two rare red panda babies have been born at Auckland Zoo.

The twins, who are yet to be named, arrived in the world on January, 3 each weighing approximately 100 grams.

They are the second and third cubs born to four-year-old mum Bo and 13-year-old Sagar, who also have a boy named Pabu, who was born just over a year ago. 

The Zoo says the new cubs are yet to be named or sexed, but are an extremely valuable addition to the international breeding programme for the threatened species.

"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.

She says the zoo team have checked and weighed the cubs but are trying to 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," she says.

"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!"

Booth says that, like one-year-old Pabu who will relocate to another zoo in Australia within the next six months, the cubs will also in time leave Auckland Zoo to contribute to the international breeding programme.

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.

Red Panda Fast Facts

▪     The average lifespan of a red panda is eight to 12 years, but the animals can live considerably longer in zoos

▪    The red panda communicates with squeaks, chattering noises and chipmunk-like sounds

▪    Although it shares the same name, the red panda is not related to the giant panda. In fact, the red panda is not related to any other animals, making it unique

▪    It is uncertain how many remain in the wild today; the ICUN Red List estimates the global population of red panda to be about 10,000 individuals. There are close to 500 individuals in zoos worldwide

▪    The IUCN Red List classifies the red panda as 'vulnerable'. It is threatened by illegal hunting and deforestation. Remaining populations are fast becoming fragmented and isolated from each other.

▪    Endemic to the temperate forests of the Himalayas, the red panda lives from Nepal in the west to China in the east. They are also found in northern India, Bhutan and northern Myanmar.

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▪    The Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund supports the Red Panda Network in Nepal, which is working to save the red panda in the wild and preserve habitat through education and empowering local communities.

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