Red panda cubs now venturing out!
More than three and a half months after their birth, the two red panda cubs (Ailurus fulgens) are now venturing out of their burrow.
The two cubs can be observed with their parents Yumi and Makalu in their enclosure since a couple of weeks. Yumi being a very protective female, the identification and the sexing of the cubs have been delayed so far.
Red pandas reach their adult size after 12 months and are sexually mature 6 months later. Breeding is seasonal: matings occur between January and mid-march with births taking place after a 135-day gestation period, generally during June or July.
There are two recognized subspecies: Ailurus fulgens fulgens found in Nepal, northeastern India, Bhutan and China, and Ailurus fulgens styani only found in Sichuan and Yunnan mountains, and in northern Myanmar.
Although omnivorous, the species feeds mainly on bamboos. It eats almost every part of it (except the roots), greatly preferring the most tender shoots and leaves. But as their digestive system only has one fermentation chamber and a short gut (unlike that of herbivorous), red pandas only extract one quarter of the nutrients from bamboo and thus need to eat large quantity of bamboo every day. They can spend as much as 13 hours a day looking for and consuming their favorite food! During winter, when insects and fruits are not available, many red pandas lose as much as 15% of their body weight. To face these harsh conditions, they can slow down their metabolism. Their thick fur also helps to keep them warm.
Red pandas live in temperate forest of the Himalayas, at elevations between 1,500 and 4,800 meters. Threatened by habitat destruction and poaching, they are listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List.