I was born at the Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo on June 7, 2012. A couple of years later, I moved to the Edmonton Valley Zoo to meet Pip. The goal was to be both her companion and breeding mate. These arranged meetings are not always successful – if you’ve ever ventured into internet dating you’ll understand. Bluntly put, there is often a colossal gap between what you are promised and what you get. And of course, there has to be chemistry; no chemistry, no connection. But, the stars were aligned for Pip and me! She is one perfect panda and a real looker! We hit it off, and a year later were the proud parents of Kola and Willow. Then, in 2017 we had twins again – Pepper and Paprika. Paprika is still under our roof, and at times, raising it!
The keepers refer to me as a “gentle giant.” I’m a big guy alright, 11 kg proud. But, I’m also a true gentleman. I never get too bossy with Pip or Paprika. Rule #1: Do whatever it takes to keep your gals happy. I’m a laid back dude, slow and steady is my mantra. In my wild past, I was the adventurous, bold, and daring one. Now, I am happy to lumber. My keeper Sheena says that I waddle when I walk and am the slowest panda ever. HA. It’s good to be the best at something.
I love my food, especially fruit. Not hot for greens though, unless its grapes and apples. Spinach…YUCK….is highly overrated. I also like playing hide n’ search for crunchy biscuits, scavenger hunts get you moving (slowly, of course. Why rush? Unless one of the girls is after my snacks.). My latest culinary delight is bamboo covered with mush – a smash-up of grapes, bananas, and berries. Pip and I like to dine on this delicacy together. It’s like a date for us.
Duh, feeding time, course! I get a jiggle in my wiggle when the food arrives, and you might say my waddle doesn’t dawdle. HAHAHA! On a more serious note, red pandas are crepuscular beings – that’s your word of the day, you’re welcome! We are primarily active between dawn and dusk, which is why you can often see me snoozing in my hammock or on our fancy new panda bridge.
Chasing Paprika is always a riot, albeit, an activity best enjoyed in short spurts. That child is an inexhaustible, gusty, and audacious chip off the old block. She takes after me alright so it’s pretty tough to reprimand her when she decides to scale the tallest tree in the yard. Oh sure, I go after her, in a usually failed effort to haul her panda butt down. Sometimes, we have a serious face-to-face chat about safety, but she blows me off. In fact, the little minx took a swat at me the other day. Ah well, the youth of today, they know it all.
Our new panda palace is gorgeous, you have to see it to believe it. It has an earthy feel – wood walls, large green spaces with towering elm trees, big windows, tons of sunlight. It’s the Hilton, I tell you! I dig the parallel playground, the youngsters squeal when we climb and wander in the yard next to them. Best of all, the joint is loaded with hammocks, so I can roam, flop for a nap, then pick and go as I please.
This isn’t exactly a special skill, but I am considered a very valuable red panda. Not to brag, but I have great genetics. My offspring – five babes to date – are all healthy and strong, so my contributions maintaining the captive red panda population are significant. Here’s a tidbit for you, red pandas have a “false thumb.” It is actually an extended wrist bone that helps us grip bamboo stalks so we can eat the leaves. Our semi-retractable claws are so sharp that we can venture down a steep tree trunk headfirst. We can also use our paws to scoop up water to drink.
Red pandas live in the mountains of Nepal, and parts of China and Myanmar. Our conservation status is endangered – an estimated 2,500 of my peeps are left in the wild. The Edmonton Valley Zoo supports the Red Panda Networkand also breeds red pandas as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a regulated international breeding program for captive animals who are endangered in the wild.
You can help the survival of red pandas by supporting one of the many exciting Valley Zoo Development Society programs such as Adopt An Animal or the Zoobuilder Program – imagine being a zookeeper for a day!
Thank you folks, hope to see you soon, Love Kalden, Papa Bear