Zoo newcomers say hello to world

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014
Hamilton zoo red panda
BRUCE MERCER
VENTURING OUT: Hamilton Zoo keepers are thrilled the four-month old cubs are healthy and exploring their surroundings.

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Thanks to a doting mum and a double dose of milk formula each day, Hamilton Zoo's two rare Nepalese red pandas have been given a clean bill of health.

The four-month-old cubs, which are still to be named, are now venturing out into their enclosure and hanging out with their extended family.

Zoo curator Samantha Kudeweh said the pair were initially slow to put on weight, but with supplement feeding the cubs were now fit and healthy and keen to explore their surroundings with older siblings Karma, Nima and Dawa.

"One is a little shyer than the other, who is more forward when it comes to food," Kudeweh said.

"Keepers are still helping mum Tayla by offering the cubs milk formula a couple of times a day."

The cubs weigh 1.5kg and 1.6kg and are thought to be females. Adult females weigh 3-4.5kg.

Red pandas originate from the Himalayas and are classified as vulnerable, with the population in the wild numbering fewer than 10,000. Deforestation and habitat loss are some of the main threats to the species' survival.

Kudeweh said the pair would likely stay at the zoo in the short to medium term.

"But as we are part of a co-operative conservation breeding programme, they may later move to other zoos to breed," she said.

Hamilton Zoo is part of the Australasian species management programme for red panda, which in turn is part of the global species management programme.

This aims to maintain a healthy genetic zoo population to support wild conservation efforts and provide an insurance population for the wild.

A competition to name the cubs is expected to be launched soon.

aaron.leaman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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