FORT WAYNE – She weighs a chubby 1 pound, is feisty for her age and will make high-pitched squeals during her weigh-ins and checkups.
A baby red panda born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo a little over a month ago has everyone there extremely stoked.
Especially since nearly half of red pandas born in captivity – including three born previously at the zoo in the past few years – die within the first 30 days.
This baby has just been more robust from the start, said Cheryl Piropato, the zoo’s education and communications director.
The cub was born to 5-year-old Xiao and her mate, 6-year-old Junjie. This cub represents the couple’s third litter.
Two cubs were born to Xiao in 2012 and another in 2013, but none survived longer than two weeks.
Last year’s cub died from not receiving any milk, though officials aren’t sure whether it did not nurse or the mother did not produce any.
While excited, zoo officials are still cautiously optimistic over the new cub, which was born June 9.
Xiao is a more experienced mother, which is how it goes in the wild, Piropato said.
While the new cub spends most of her time in an air conditioned nesting box, where Xiao nurses and grooms her when the pair aren’t sleeping, she does get out for regular checkups.
Zookeepers use a tasty bamboo branch to distract Xiao so they can get the cub.
The cub is feisty, squirmy and chubby, said zookeeper Helena Lacey, who works with the red pandas daily.
The cub has nearly tripled her size since her birth and now opens her eyes, according to zoo officials. While pictures of the red panda can be seen on the zoo’s website, cubs don’t leave the nest for roughly three months.
That means guests probably won’t be able to see the cub until late August or early September.
Red pandas are native to the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed on bamboo.
They are not related to the black-and-white giant pandas, despite sharing the name, which comes from a Nepalese word meaning bamboo-eater.
And while the cub has survived past the critical 30-day mark, zoo officials know other hurdles remain.
Weaning is a critical time for red panda cubs as they make the transition from mother’s milk to solid food, Lacey said.
To see a video of the cub, go to the zoo’s website at http://kidszoo.org/zoo-news.