Welcome Red Panda Willie!!

September 15, 2020

Welcome to our new male red panda, Willie! He recently came to us from Zoo Knoxville, in Tennessee. Due in part to travel restrictions, our primary red panda keeper drove about half-way to meet Zoo Knoxville staff at the Columbus Zoo to pick him up and bring him back to Rochester.

Willie was born on June 21, 2015, at the Greenville Zoo, in South Carolina. He was named after Willie Nelson, specifically after an old album called the Red Headed Stranger. On formal occasions, he has been referred to as William.Willie was brought here as a mate for our female red panda, Starlight, who is just two years younger than he is. You can tell them apart by comparing the coloration of their heads. Starlight has a dark colored head, and Willie has a light colored head.

Willie will have a lot of new things to get used to here, besides a new mate, and all new keepers. We will need to give him time to get accustomed to being in an open top exhibit, where people can view him from three sides. You can help him to adjust, by lowering your voices when you squeal with excitement at their “cuteness”.

They will spend the fall getting to know each other, before the winter breeding season takes place. We are looking forward to seeing his reaction to a winter with some real New York snow!

-Heidi Beifus, Primary Cold Asia Zoo Keeper

*Banner photo by Heidi Beifus


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