When most people think of pandas their minds immediately turn to the big, black-and-white bears who inhabit bamboo forests. But at Melbourne Zoo, there’s another type of panda and to find them you’ll have to look up.
Five-year-old male red panda Seba lives at Melbourne Zoo with his female mate Roshani. They spend most of their days high up in a tree, and you can see visitors looking upwards trying to catch a glimpse or a photo of the furry pair. The pandas are inseparable. They spend their days cuddling, snacking on bamboo and keeping warm in their nest box in the trees. Keepers are hopeful the red pandas will breed.
Red pandas are native to Nepal, China and India, but their numbers in the wild are decreasing mainly due to habitat loss, hunting and poaching. They are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species and it’s thought there are fewer than 10,000 adult red pandas left in their natural environment. By breeding red pandas in captivity, zoos around the world play an important role in conservation efforts for these creatures.
Red pandas are very gentle by nature and are definitely a crowd favourite at Melbourne Zoo. Their stunning red coat and very soft fur – they even have hair on their paws for when they have to walk on snow (which admittedly isn’t a regular occurrence in their current habitat!) – helps insulate them from the cold in their natural environment. They’re not big animals, usually measuring between 30 and 50 centimetres long, but two thirds of that length is actually their bushy tail, which they use to balance when they’re in trees.
Don’t forget to go see Seba and Roshani the next time you visit the zoo, and remember that kids who dress up as either a goat or a sheep during Chinese New Year (until 28 February) get free admission to Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo or Healesville Sanctuary.