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Red Panda cubs

2 March 2016

Red Panda twins born at Melbourne Zoo have made a brief public debut this morning, when they had a vet check and vaccination.  

Dr. Christina Cheng vaccinated the cubs against feline enteritis and two forms of feline respiratory disease. She also microchipped them, to provide an ID for each twin’s health record. The checkup also confirmed that both cubs are male.

Keepers have given them names that relate to Nepal being one of the countries where this species is found in the wild. ‘Mandu’ is short for Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu, and ‘Keta’ means ‘boy’ in Nepalese. Mandu weighs 853g and Keta weighs 815g which are both good weights for their age.

After the checkup, Keepers returned the cubs to their nest box, where they continue to spend most of their time. This is consistent with the way this species behaves in the wild, with tree hollows being the most common nesting site in the remote high-altitude bamboo forests of the Himalayas.

Prior to the breeding season in August, Carnivore Keepers installed several nesting boxes in the exhibit, so mother Roshani was able choose the spot where she preferred to give birth and care for her cubs, born on December 10 2015.

Red Panda cubs are born blind and helpless, and their furry coats are initially grey. They aren’t weaned until they are about five months old.

Carnivore Department Manager Adrian Howard says ‘Keepers have taken quick peeks at the cubs and conducted brief handling sessions to determine their general health and condition them to the presence of Keepers. However we have minimised any disturbance to ensure that we didn’t disrupt Roshani from providing her babies with the best possible mothering.

‘Fortunately we were able to install some monitors in the nest boxes before they bred - that is only a one-day window, the shortest of breeding seasons! So for the first time we have been able to keep a close eye on the cubs during their earliest days and monitor their behavior after any disturbance,’ Adrian explains. 'So far the twins are content in the nest box, but over coming weeks we expect to get more peeks at the Panda cubs!'

Red Pandas are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  Although poaching is responsible for some of the population decline, loss of their forested habitat is the single most significant reason why the species is in danger in the wild.