Zoo in Colorado works to save red pandas from extinction

China 24

The Giant Panda is China’s national treasure, and a powerful symbol for species conservation. The Red Panda, also called the “lesser panda,” doesn’t get nearly as much attention.

But it’s managed and cared for in much the same way.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

At the Denver Zoo recently, all eyes were on this animal enclosure. It was time to said goodbye to Lali and Masu, two female Red Panda cubs, who were about to be shipped to two other zoos in the U.S.

For years, giant pandas have dominated the panda market. Their cute looks and their story of near-extinction grabbed the public’s attention.

Zoo officials said red pandas, which also come from western China and pre-date giant pandas, are every bit as endangered: only about 1200 in captivity worldwide. And they have lots of fans, too.

Lali and Masu’s departure was mandated by the Species Survival Plan, a program developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Its goal is to maintain genetically diverse populations of threatened animals like the red panda.

Suzanne Braden is head of Pandas International, a non-profit organization based in Colorado whose mission is to help save the giant pandas. Those animals are bred in much the same way.

“Everybody knows that if you don’t have a large enough gene pool, then if you’re inbreeding, the species is going to get weaker, they’re going to be more susceptible to disease and health issues,” Branden said.

Giant pandas are known as an umbrella species. Efforts to protect them and their Chinese habitat also help red pandas in the wild. Red pandas also feast on bamboo. These animals, which resemble foxes or raccoons, are known for their shyness.

Their parents, Faith and Hamlet, will stay behind while Lali and Masu go their separate ways for the benefit of their species and whole new groups of devoted followers.

Adam Roberts explains why red pandas are endangered

To better understand the threats red pandas face, CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke with Adam Roberts, an animal protection expert.