Panda Great-grandma finishes vet check on a high note

01 November 2019

Melbourne Zoo has shared a rare close-up look at one of its most elusive residents, Roshani the Red Panda.

The great grandmother is the second-oldest Red Panda in the region and part of an international breeding program to preserve the endangered species. She has three children, seven grand-cubs and 11 great-grand-cubs across Australasia.

Roshani is normally only glimpsed high up in her trees at Melbourne Zoo, but will officially become 'geriatric' on her 12th birthday next month [December], so has undergone a full health check-up.

Melbourne Zoo keepers have been working with Roshani for months to train her to receive a voluntary anaesthetic hand injection.

Melbourne Zoo veterinarian Dr Kate Bodley said the training made getting Roshani to the Vet Department check-up much less stressful for the precious panda.

"We work together with the keepers because Roshani is very shy," Dr Bodley said. "Certainly with people she doesn't know, she is not going to come down out of the tree. And keepers have worked very hard to get her to the point where we could do the examination."

The great grandmother is the second-oldest Red Panda in the region and part of an international breeding program to preserve the endangered species.

Dr Bodley said the check-up showed Roshani is in excellent health overall.

“Her health is actually remarkably good. I was very impressed. She has quite worn teeth, which is what I would expect as she eats bamboo that is a pretty abrasive sort of material to be eating. Her molar teeth are worn but, apart from that, she really looks amazing. She has no signs of arthritis at all.

"We did get her blood tests back and we know now that we need to keep a little bit of an eye on her kidney function as she gets older. So we will be doing that by regularly making sure that she is maintaining weight and doing tests on her urine.

“It is always good to know exactly what is going on. And certainly in Roshani’s case it has been excellent to see that she is doing so well. It makes us feel very good about the care that she is receiving here."

The Red Panda is native to the Himalayas but is adored globally because of its endearing facial features, gentle nature, reddish-brown fur and long, fluffy tail.

The species is classified as endangered, with fewer than 10,000 remaining in the wild, with habitat destruction a continuing threat to the wild population.

Melbourne Zoo is home to two Red Pandas – Roshani and Seba - and participates in a worldwide Red Panda breeding program with the purpose of providing an insurance population against severe declines in the wild.