Baby red pandas near debut at Denver Zoo |

Baby red pandas near debut at Denver Zoo

Bill Scanlon
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado
Dave Parsons/Denver ZooThis photo was taken when the cubs were just a few days old.

DENVER, Colorado ” Fluffy and playful, a pair of red panda babies are having a great time with their mom, but remain a few weeks away from their debut before the Denver public.

Born on June 29 at the Denver Zoo, Amaya and Takeo already have the markings of red-colored raccoons.

Their mom, Sophie, is feeding them milk, while dad He-Ping is playing a secondary role.

It was a pre-arranged marriage that brought Sophie and He-Ping together. He-Ping arrived from the Milwaukee Zoo last year, about the time Sophie came to Denver from Mill Mountain Zoo.

The experts from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums decided a Sophie and He-Ping pairing would help further the Species Survival Plan for red pandas. The goal is to ensure healthy populations and genetic diversity for endangered animals such as red pandas.

Amaya and Takeo did their part, boasting a clean bill of health during a recent checkup by Denver Zoo veterinarians, said zoo spokeswoman Ana Bowie.

They didn’t take kindly to the checkups. Veterinarians described Amaya, a female, and Takeo, a male, as “feisty” during the exams.

There are some 2,500 mature red pandas living in the wild, primarily in the mountains of southeast Asia.

Their demise is the same old story: aggressive hunting and human encroachment on their habitat.

They have thick fur coats and should be fine in Denver’s climate.

Red pandas grow to about 3 1/2 feet long and weigh between seven and 14 pounds, according to the National Zoo. Their red-and-white markings help them blend in with the red mosses and white lichens that grow in trees where they live.

Their long bushy tails help them balance on tree branches.

Like their larger and more famous cousins ” the great pandas ” red pandas live mostly on bamboo shoots in the wild. Here in Denver, the pandas also get vitamin-fortified biscuits to help their nutrition.

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