One of the red panda sisters (Photo courtesy of Zoo Atlanta Instagram).
Ruby and Rose, 2 female sister red pandas, have recently been brought to join Zoo Atlanta’s animal population. They originated from Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee and were moved based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP). Additionally, in line with an SSP recommendation, Jackie, the 5-year-old male red panda who had lived at Zoo Atlanta since 2020, has moved to Zoo Knoxville.
Fun facts about red pandas
Here are some interesting tidbits to know about these cute creatures. Red pandas are1:
- A separate species from giant pandas. They share a distant common ancestor but are not closely related.
- Renowned for their lustrous red coats, that was the inspiration for their Chinese name hunho, or “fire fox.”
- Mainly arboreal and typically solitary in the wild, but may be found in small groups.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ruby and Rose to Zoo Atlanta, and are excited for Jackie’s new opportunity at Zoo Knoxville. This is an outstanding example of cooperation between AZA zoos for the benefit of all of the animals involved,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, vice president of collections and conservation, in an organizational release.1 “We look forward to introducing Ruby and Rose, and the conservation messages for which they are ambassadors, to our Members and guests.”
The SSP typically involves itself with breeding and genetics recommendations, however it also assesses the animal populations at accredited zoos for additional factors such as housing. This program aims to ensure the long-term viability of animal populations in accredited zoos, and recommendations can lead to transfers between AZA zoos, due to the needs of individual animals and the benefit of the population at large.
Red pandas are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Primarily, they are affected by habitat loss, but also by poaching for their pelts and capture for the illegal pet trade. Zoo Atlanta supports red panda conservation through its Mabel Dorn Reeder Conservation Endowment Fund. Funding from Zoo Atlanta helps counteract habitat loss by allowing continued support of the Red Panda Network’s reforestation nursery in Jaubari, Nepal.
Ruby and Rose are part of the Himalayan subspecies of red pandas which is native to Nepal, Bhutan, and parts of India. The other of the 2 subspecies of red pandas is native to China.
The red panda duo is currently behind the scenes in a routine quarantine at Zoo Atlanta, so they can acclimate to their new surrounding in Zoo’s Asian Forest before being visible to visitors.
Zoo Atlanta welcomes Ruby and Rose the red pandas. News release. Zoo Atlanta. February 24, 2023. Accessed February 27, 2023. https://zooatlanta.org/press-release/zoo-atlanta-welcomes-ruby-and-rose-the-red-pandas