The Zoo is home to two red pandas, a female named Starlight and a male named Willie. Born in June 2017, Starlight arrived at the Zoo in spring 2018 from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Willie was born in 2015 at the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina and came to us in 2020 from Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee. Willie is distinctive from Starlight based on his predominantly white face, while Starlight’s face markings are more red. The red panda habitat is located next to the Animal Hospital.
The red panda is listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. The biggest threat to this species is deforestation, which eliminates nesting sites and sources of food, and isolates populations into small fragments. They are also poached for their fur, and are becoming increasingly popular in the pet trade.
Red pandas are found throughout the Himalayan Mountains, living at altitudes between 5,000 and 15,000 feet. They prefer cool temperate climates in deciduous and coniferous forests. These forests are vital for red panda survival, since they are an arboreal species.
Although technically omnivores, red pandas are primarily herbivores and prefer to feed on bamboo leaves and shoots. They will also eat berries, blossoms, the leaves of other plants, and occasionally bird eggs, insects, and small rodents.
Red pandas spend almost 13 hours of their waking time foraging for food. They can eat up to 30% of their body weight in bamboo shoots and leaves each day.
The Chinese word for red panda is hunho, meaning fire fox.
During cold weather, red pandas can lower their metabolic rate to conserve energy.