Red panda cubs rarely come in threes, and the new arrivals are just the fourth, fifth and sixth of their subspecies (Ailurus fulgens fulgens) ever born at the Zoo.
"Until this year, it had been 10 years since the last red panda triplets were born at an accredited zoo in North America," said Christopher Kuhar, Ph.D., Curator of Primates and Small Mammals. "Red pandas are endangered in the wild, so these births are important to ensure we have a strong captive population that can serve as ambassadors for the few red pandas remaining in the wild."
The triplets were born on June 28 to mother, "Ruth," and father, "Gordi," the Zoo's breeding pair of adult red pandas.
Two of the triplets, a male named "Pang Pang" and a female named "Xiao," currently spend most of their time hidden in a nesting box at the red panda exhibit outside the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building. Patient Zoo guests, however, may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the cubs when Ruth carries them to a different nest. It will be weeks before the cubs can roam the exhibit on their own.
The third triplet, a female named "Mei Mei," is being raised by veterinary technicians at the Center for Zoological Medicine. Mei Mei, whose name is an affectionate term for "little sister" in Mandarin, needed extra medical attention and nurturing shortly after birth.
After she recovered, the Zoo's Animal Care team returned Mei Mei to her mother, but she was not accepted into the nest. She'll stay at the animal hospital until she's mobile enough to go on exhibit and be grouped with other red pandas.
With the new arrivals, the Zoo is now home to five red pandas.
Red pandas are extremely endangered in their native Nepal, China and Burma due to habitat loss and hunting. Only a few thousand remain living in the wild.
Although red pandas live in the same bamboo forests as the more commonly known giant pandas, they are much smaller and look more like raccoons than bears. They have striking red fur, with white facial markings and long, bushy tails.
To learn more, visit clemetzoo.com or call (216) 661-6500.
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