Shropshire Star

Delight for keepers as rare red panda born at safari park

Keepers at West Midlands Safari Park have spoken of their excitement after the birth of a rare red panda cub.

The cub is a month old and is being cared for by first-time mum, Mei Lin.

The keepers said they suspected that three-year-old Mei Lin was due to give birth after seeing her settle into one of her nest boxes in mid-June then, a few days later, heard tiny squeaks coming from the box and Mei Lin grooming something inside.

Discovery Trail keeper Kyle Wingfield said they had then spotted glimpses of a tiny red panda cub and were able to capture it on camera as Mei Lin moved next boxes.

He said: “This is both a hugely exciting, but also nerve-wracking time for us.

"It’s fantastic that Mei Lin and our male, Sanka, have successfully mated, after only being introduced just over a year ago.

"After a gestation period of four and a half months, the cub arrived, making it the first red panda cub we’ve ever had at the Park in our 50-year history.

"Whilst this is incredible news, it’s also important to remember that this is Mei Lin’s first time at being a mum and she is doing a great job so far, but it is still very early days.

“Red pandas are listed as ‘endangered’ in the wild with fewer than ten thousand individuals left, making every birth that more important.

"Whilst things look promising so far, with Mei Lin showing all the right, maternal signs, we will continue to monitor her from a safe distance allowing her the space, privacy and time she needs, as she adapts to being a new mum.”

Keepers at the park will be watching the cub’s progress at a distance and when the cub is around three months old, they will perform a health check and will find out what sex it is, before giving it a name.

Mei Lin was the first red panda to arrive at the Park in August 2021 and was joined by male, Sanka, in March 2022 as part of an EEP (Eaza Ex-Situ Programme), which is a collaborative breeding programme between European zoos, aiming to conserve endangered species.

Red pandas are listed as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with wild populations decreasing, due to threats such as habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, caused by human activities.

The Park sponsors a forest guardian, through the Red Panda Network, who helps to monitor and protect the red pandas in their wild habitat.

The arrival of the Park’s first red panda cub is a milestone moment for the Park, following the announcement of the birth of its first Sumatran tiger cub last week, as well as a Grevy’s zebra foal, barasingha fawns and a lowland anoa calf, being born earlier in the year.

As both Mei Lin and Sanka are first-time parents, the Park is asking guests to be mindful of noise when visiting the Red Panda Retreat habitat.

Red pandas spend the first few months of their lives growing in their dens with their mothers, therefore it is unlikely that guests will be able to see the cub until it is about four months old, when it will start emerging to explore its new home.