Panda Updates – Monday, April 6
We recently had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye to the smallest but mightiest of our panda family here at Zoo Atlanta, Idgie the red panda. At nearly 14 years old, Idgie was considered geriatric for her species, and what she lacked in size she more than made up for in personality. Full of spunk, she immediately stole the hearts of everyone who met her, care team and guests alike. She captivated many with her extreme cuteness and kept all of us on our toes daily, constantly challenging us and helping us grow as animal caregivers. Known lovingly in our department as our “training rock star,” that girl would voluntarily participate in all her training as long as you had grapes. As she got older and her arthritis developed, it was a true team effort to make sure that we made her as happy, comfortable, and engaged as possible. I think one of the things I will remember most when I think of Idgie will be the collaborative effort we all made for her. Members of Animal Care, Veterinary Team, Maintenance and Horticulture all brainstormed and worked tirelessly to make sure she had everything she needed. It was a lot of work, but our Idgie was worth it, and we were rewarded by getting to watch her comfortably live out her golden years.
Idgie was an amazing ambassador for her species, introducing many to red pandas and inspiring them to help act against the illegal pet trade and the effect it has on wild red panda populations. She had a huge fan base, and none of us could walk to her habitat without hearing a guest say how cool, unique, or just downright cute she was. She might not have known it, but she did and will continue to have a big impact on red panda conservation.
Being an animal care professional is one of the coolest jobs on Earth. These animals hold a big presence in our hearts, and saying goodbye to them never gets any easier. We are all heartbroken but can take pride in knowing that Idgie, like all the animals here at Zoo Atlanta, got the best possible care we could provide and immeasurable love from her care team and fans. I can safely speak for all of us when I say that caring for Idgie and getting to know her quirky personality was a true privilege, and things around here just won’t be the same without her. I’ll miss the way she wiggled her tail when she was scent-marking, how excited she got for grapes, and the little vocalization she made when she thought we weren’t being quick enough about delivering her breakfast. This might be the last Panda Update about Idgie, but I hope she has left just as big of a paw print on your hearts as she has on ours, and that you continue to learn and help combat the threats that are causing these amazing animals’ decline. We will miss you, Idgie!
Keeper II, Mammals