Two cuddly, ginger-colored pandas have relocated from Virginia and Iowa to make Wilmington their new home.
The Brandywine Zoo is hoping Delawareans will give the duo – five-year-old Sherman and a four-year-old female named Mohu – a warm welcome as they settle into their Monkey Hill estate. In the wild, red pandas can be found in mountainous regions of China, India, Bhutan, and Nepal.
The cute little guys come as replacements for former resident sisters, Meridoc and Gansu, who lived at the zoo since 2014 before being transferred to other zoos, where they have been paired with mates.
Brandywine Zoo staff prepared for the newcomers by learning about each animal’s personality, dietary preferences, medical history, training techniques, and favorite enrichment activities.
The zoo said the transfer of red pandas is mandated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which tracks animal populations in human care in American zoos. The SSP is coordinated by a specialist management group that follows the genetics and demographics of their respective animal populations. Annual meetings are held to examine the health of the population and make recommendations for transfers and breeding.
The current red panda population in North American zoos includes 150 animals in 58 AZA-accredited facilities. All of the red pandas were captive-born. The median lifespan for red pandas is 10 years with some living to 20 years. Pandas like sisters Meridoc and Gansu are regularly transferred among different zoos for breeding with unrelated pandas to ensure genetic diversity for the population.
Red pandas face threats of habitat loss from deforestation caused by commercial logging, demand for firewood, and clearing for agriculture. This has led to reduced food supply for the red pandas and habitat fragmentation that threatens their ability to move about their territories. Another threat is ongoing hunting of red pandas for pelts.
The zoo says Sherman and Mohu are not a reproductive pair. Sherman has several offspring already, and Mohu is not a breeding female. In the future, the zoo plans to add a new red panda exhibit that would allow for red panda breeding.
In addition to its newest residents, the Brandywine Zoo features Andean condors, river otters, pygmy goats, llamas, rheas, and other animals native to the Americas and the temperate areas of Asia.