Panda Updates – Monday, January 27
Red pandas are listed as Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. This is just two steps below being declared extinct in the wild, and three steps below being extinct all together. While habitat fragmentation and poaching are both concerns for red panda populations, one of their biggest threats is the demand for them in the illegal wildlife pet trade.
As cute as red pandas are, they do not make good pets in any shape or form. The mindset that they do, and that people think they can adequately take care of them, is a driving factor in their population decline. Idgie, and all red pandas, require specialized diets, habitats and opportunities to exhibit species-specific natural behaviors. They also, despite their cute demeanor, can bite and scratch quite a bit. As you can see in the photo on the right, Idgie has sharp claws that help her grip as she walks. These claws would also help wild red pandas catch and tear smaller prey such as birds and rodents. While we do enter Idgie’s habitat with her here at Zoo Atlanta, we maintain our space and let Idgie have hers. We do not cuddle, pet, or pick her up, and any time we touch her it is for training purposes such as medical exams.
Red pandas kept as pets not only are deprived of the opportunity to engage with naturalistic environments and display natural behaviors, they are also kept from breeding and thus contributing to the survival of their species in the wild. If you would like to learn more, the Red Panda Network is a great resource for red panda information and what you can do to help ensure the species is around for years to come.
Keeper II, Mammals
(photos by Danica W.)