The Edmonton Valley Zoo has been my home since I entered the world on May 26, 2008. I am 11 years young. I live here with my beloved and very handsome mate, Kalden, and our daughter Paprika. Together, Kalden and I have given birth to two litters of healthy babies, four children total. You might be surprised to learn that I am also a grandma. Yes, it’s true! Just goes to show that if you eat well and stay active, you too can age with grace.
One of my keepers, Sheena, says that I am a real sweetheart and have the “sweetest little panda face.” Sometimes I catch her looking at me in a mesmerized state, whispering softly how cute I am, and that I don’t even look real. It’s nice to be admired. I tend to be a little cautious and laid back, some might even say introverted. I like to be observant and assess new situations from a distance before I venture forth. That being said, I am a friendly gal, always first to greet the keepers at the door.
It’s time to be straight up and honest. My darling little Paprika, love of my life, is my biggest annoyance these days. She has hit the “terrible two” phase (she turns two on July 23) and that child can drive me to distraction. It is non-stop “Mom, Mom, Moooom!!” “Mom, look at me at the top of the tree!” “Mom, look at me hang onto this branch with only one paw!” It’s exhausting. Moms, am I right? Of course, I am a tolerant, loving mother and put up with it, but if she tries to snatch one of my grapes, I give her a quick swat with my paw to say, “back off little lady!” This is totally acceptable in Panda Land. Then, we make up and cuddle.
I live for grapes – red or green – doesn’t matter, just keep the grapes coming! I love grape mash – a blend of grapes and bananas spread over bamboo. Pure heaven! I also LOVE Pipsicles, pureed grapes that are frozen in ice cube trays. Of course, I do understand the importance of a balanced diet so leaf eater biscuits, leafy greens, broccoli, and cooked carrots and sweet potato are fine, too. My only rule is dessert FIRST! Hand over those grapes. Being blessed with superb balance, I often stand on my hind legs and wave my adorable front paws at the keepers. It’s a bit of a con job designed to wrangle one more grape from their clutches before they leave! Between you and me, works every time. I look like a ‘dancing teddy bear,’ and I know I’m way too cute to resist!
Our new home is marvellous. Spacious, bright, easy access to the outside yards, filled with hammocks for resting, and lots of climbing opportunities so I can stay limber and fit. The yards are filled with long grass to hide in and tall trees to climb. There are great views from the top of the towering elm trees, I can see for miles. No time to get bored here. And, the nesting boxes are very cozy with mini-cameras so the keepers can keep a close eye on newborns. Very smart set up. The designers really thought like a red panda when they drew up the plans. Best of all, the building is air conditioned, we love cooler temperatures.
Red pandas are more than just pretty faces. I can walk into my crate when asked, step onto the scale for regular weight checks, and even hold still for an ultrasound to see if I am with baby. I quite like it when they gently palpate my belly when I am pregnant, it’s very relaxing.
Our numbers in the wild are estimated at 2,500. This is extremely low which is why our conservation status is endangered. Deforestation (loss of nesting trees and bamboo), poaching (for pelts and body parts for traditional medicine), accidental trapping, and the illegal pet trade have all made our natural home a dangerous place for us to exist.
The Edmonton Valley Zoo supports the Red Panda Network and also breeds red pandas as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a coordinated international breeding program for captive animals who are endangered in the wild. Please learn more about red pandas and support organizations that promote our wellness. Thank you!