For only the second time in the zoo’s history, red panda cubs have been born at the Idaho Falls Zoo! Two female cubs arrived during the first week of July to mother, Linda, and father, Marvin.
Marvin was the first red panda born at the Idaho Falls Zoo in 2019 and he had quite the dramatic first few months of his life. His mother neglected to care for him, so he was flown to Zoo Knoxville and raised by animal care experts with other red pandas as part of the Association of Zoo’s and Aquariums’ (AZA) red panda Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP is a cooperatively managed breeding program between facilities accredited by AZA that manages captive threatened or endangered species. While at Zoo Knoxville, Marvin was paired with Linda and the two came to Idaho Falls Zoo in early 2021 as an SSP recommendation.
On the morning of July 1, 2021, a zookeeper checking on the pandas early in the morning heard several squeaks and squeals when they entered Marvin and Linda’s off-exhibit nesting space. “We knew immediately what we were hearing,” says General Curator Katie Barry. “We’d seen breeding activity between the parents, so we weren’t overly surprised to hear cub noises, but we were absolutely thrilled!”
The keepers continued to monitor the situation to ensure Linda was caring for the cubs over the next week. “We were ready to intervene, but only if necessary,” continues Barry. “We were unsure of how she’d react to the cubs, especially since both Marvin and Linda were hand raised. Red pandas are known for neglecting or abandoning cubs shortly after birth if conditions aren’t just right. But she’s proven to be a wonderful new mom and we couldn’t be happier.”
On July 7, one cub was seen and on July 8 a second cub was confirmed. Linda has been very cooperative to allow animal care experts to examine and weigh her new duo. Just this week she’s started carrying them out of their nesting area into her off-exhibit holding space. When they begin to come out into the public exhibit area, you might notice one cub appears larger than the other. Our animal care specialists say this isn’t any cause for concern because both cubs are growing at a healthy, steady rate of 12-14 gram per day which is a great indication mom is taking wonderful care of them. So, what’s with the size difference? In red pandas, each embryo develops within its own placenta therefore it’s possible, although rare, the second cub may have been born a day after her larger sister.
How does Marvin feel about this whole thing? According to Barry, “He’s observant and has access to be with Linda and the cubs, but he’s definitely letting mom take the lead. He’ll only go near them when Linda allows it.”
Red pandas are endangered, so each new cub is extremely important to the future of the species. Your Idaho Falls Zoo participates in the red panda SSP.
Part of being an AZA accredited organization is always providing the highest level of professional attention and welfare for the animals in our care as they serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.
We’d love for you to get involved with the new pair by helping us vote on their names! The zookeepers have selected three sets of names. From now until late September, you can come to the zoo and vote on your choice of a name pair in front of the red panda exhibit for only $1 per vote. The pair of names that gets the most money wins. All proceeds go to support your zoo.
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Media Note: For more information or to schedule an interview with zoo staff, please contact City of Idaho Falls Public Information Officer, Bud Cranor at 208-612-8306 or at [email protected].
About Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park: With more than 330 individual animals representing 130 species from all around the globe, the Idaho Falls Zoo is known as the “Best Little Zoo in the West.” Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the zoo participates in 44 Species Survival Plans. Learn more on our website.