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Panda Updates – Monday, December 21

A question that we hear frequently is “How do animals move from one zoo to another?” It’s actually a complex process involving lots of people, paperwork, emails, phone calls, vet consultations, and, of course, travel arrangements. I’ve been part of two animal transfers in my career. My first one was quite a big one! I accompanied Mei Lan to China when he moved to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in 2010. More, recently, Carnivore Lead Keeper Jenny and I drove to Washington, D.C., to pick up Jackie from Smithsonian’s National Zoo and brought him to Atlanta. 

Most of the arrangements for animal transfers are made by our Registrar, which is the person responsible for keeping track of all of our animals. However, I was partially involved in the paperwork process as well since I am the Species Survival Plan’s Institutional Representative for red pandas at Zoo Atlanta. When we sadly lost Idgie earlier this year, I contacted the SSP Coordinator to let her know and discuss our options for bringing another red panda to Zoo Atlanta. Once we chose Jackie, the registrars and veterinarians at each zoo work out the rest of the arrangements according to guidelines provided by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and state (including all states we travel through) and federal laws. This year, different considerations had to be made due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well. The planning took several months. 

When Jenny and I left for Washington D.C., we packed the ZooMobile with all of the essentials we might need to take care of Jackie during the 10-hour trip, including a medium-sized dog crate, a water bowl, a food bowl, a gallon of water, and cleaning supplies. Early the following morning, we met his care team at Jackie’s habitat. He went right into the crate voluntarily as he has trained to do so many times! His care team gave us his diet for the day, some bamboo, and his favorite triangle firehose hammock (pictured) to take with us. Jackie traveled well – much better than some of my cats and dogs! We checked on him frequently throughout the drive and made several stops to feed him bamboo, leafeater biscuits, apples, and grapes, refresh his water, and add pine shavings to his crate as needed. Although Jackie was quiet and calm throughout the trip, I’m sure he was as relieved as Jenny and I were to arrive at Zoo Atlanta that evening. Our quarantine care team had set up new his space with lots of perches and shelves for him, which he quickly explored once he left his crate. Even though every animal that transfers from one zoo to another has a veterinary exam prior to moving, they all must go through a quarantine period once they arrive at their new home to ensure they are healthy before they are introduced to their permanent habitat.

After 30 days, we were able to move Jackie to the red panda habitat, where he quickly made himself at home. The Panda Care Team is so excited to have Jackie in our care, but we want to recognize those people that took a lot of time and effort to get him here and those that continue to help us care for him! 

Heather R.
Senior Keeper, Carnivores

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