Rare red panda triplets for zoo
A litter of three rare Nepalese red pandas at Hamilton Zoo is sure to have animal lovers swooning and weak at the knees.
The three boys arrived like an early Christmas present on December 20, 2012, to the delight of zoo keepers.
The birth has doubled the number of red pandas at the zoo.
There's mother Tayla, Father Chito and big brother Ketu who was born in 2010, to care for the triplets.
Seven weeks after birth and the three cubs are doing well.
Mother Tayla is reportedly doing an exceptional job.
For Zoo Curator Sam Kudeweh, the birth of the triplets late last year was great news yet seeing them grow into their fury down is even better.
"Red panda cubs are slow to develop so the first months are really crucial,'' she said.
''We have been undertaking regular weigh ins with the cubs so that we can keep an eye on their progress - but need to balance this with hands off approach as much as possible so we can leave mum Tayla to look after her cubs."
At 19 days old the cubs were weighed for the first time and tipped the scales to about 225 grams.
They're now around 400g - about as heavy as a can of baked beans.
The cubs are currently in the den with their mother, where they are expected to spend up to around three months before venturing out to the public space.
The cubs join a species classified as 'vulnerable'.
The population of red pandas is thought to be less than 10,000 and decreasing. Deforestation and habitat fragmentation are the main threats to the survival of the species. Poaching for their prized fur coat is a major problem in China.
Ms Kudeweh said red pandas are one of the few species with a global captive breeding programme, one that Hamilton Zoo is proud to be part of.
''We are really pleased to be able to contribute to the survival of the species with this breeding opportunity," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News