My Love for the Red Panda.

‘Panda’ from the Nepalese, nigalya ponya meaning bamboo footed.

23666_10150140661800271_1831177_nThe red panda was the first ‘panda’ to be know to the West as early as the 1800’s! In 1825 Frenchman Frederic Cuvier published an account describing the red panda and named the species, Ailurus fulgens fulgens, or shining cat.

By the 1840’s English naturalist Brain Houghton Hodgson had written a detailed study on the red panda or ‘Wah’. Focusing on habitat and diet.

It was not until 1869 that the giant panda was identified. However to distinguish the species, the first panda was renamed the lesser panda.

39755_425944215911_56676235911_4773054_7286609_nIt’s been eight years since I saw my first red panda, having been oblivious to their existence until then. For me it was love-at-first-sight! They seem to be a number of animals all rolled into one, which has caused countless debates as to what family or classification of animal the red panda truly is.

Are they bear-cats? They are cat sized (always a plus in my book) and rather bear-like, though they are not part of the ursidae family.

They bark like a dog: There is little published evidence but the red panda is highly susceptible to diseases like canine distemper.

Their vocalisations sound similar to birds:

A living fossil: Recent DNA studies have concluded that the red panda is in its own family of the Ailuridae, being part of the super-family the Musteloidea, (weasels, skunks and raccoons).

The only similarity with giant pandas is their diet (bamboo) and the false thumb, an elongated wrist bone that acts like a sixth digit. It helps with holding food and climbing, especially head first!

Red pandas are found largely in temperate, deciduous forests, from Nepal to China and Myanmar. There are two subspecies, Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani. Their red fur, one of the densest of all mammals (for insulation), is perfect camouflage during autumn.

Due to living in Himalayan regions, red pandas prefer cooler days. Winter is the best time to find them active.

Although they have a penchant for bamboo, eating up to 45% of their body weight a day, red pandas are classed as carnivores. They eat fruit, insects, eggs and small birds.

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Feeding Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park

Red pandas have a slow metabolism due to being unable to digest bamboo properly, hence being rather sedentary. I’ve noticed many zoo guests just walk past red panda enclosures because they have been asleep up a tree. In most cases you need to visit several times in the hope of catching one awake. Being a crepuscular animal doesn’t help either as they are more active at dawn and dusk.

They are solitary animals, only coming together for mating. The female is only receptive one day a year. The breeding season is usually January to April with birth around June/July. The litter usually consists of one to four cubs, but usually two.

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Photo by David Evans

In 2010 I was honoured to witness Chester Zoo’s female red panda, Lushui move her cub, Lily from nest to nest. They do this to avoid predators. Cubs come out of the nest from around three months, and stay with their mothers for about a year before finding their own territory. Their lifespan in captivity can reach 15 years.

However beautiful red pandas are, they are classified as endangered by the IUCN. The main threats to them are deforestation, hunting, poaching and illegal trade. In China there is a traditional custom dating back to around the 13th century where red panda pelts are given to newlyweds as a sign of ‘good luck’. Red pandas are also predated upon by snow leopards and martens.

Conservation: Exact numbers of red pandas in Asia are relatively unknown, estimates say up to 10,000 adults. There is a worldwide effort to protect the red panda and its habitat. In many of the countries where the red panda is found, their habitat has been designated areas of protection, though these areas are hard to police. The Red Panda Network liaise with ‘forest guardians’ to educate and highlight the need to conserve red panda habitat. They are also working directly with the creators of the Panchthar-Ilam-Singhalila (PIS corridor), which will be the first Red Panda Protected Forest.

In captivity there are two long term initiatives for breeding, the Red Panda Species Survival Programme (SSP) and the European Endangered Species Programme (EES) which offers a ‘stud book’ of potential mates.

Popular culture: There have been a number of depictions of red pandas on many platforms over the years. Another name for the red panda is the Fire Fox. Mozilla use this name for their web browser, though their logo is ambiguous.

Cinema: In 2008 DreamWorks released Kung Fu Panda with Shifu, being a lose representation of a red panda! A year earlier an animated Barbie film, the Island Princess had a red panda as a friendly aide.

In 2013 Pocket Gems released a game called Animal Adventure with a red panda as one of the main characters.

14115498_10153971399038869_7066728288936528819_oThe future…is still uncertain.

At the time of writing, the WWF have announced that the giant panda’s status has improved from endangered to vulnerable. Hopefully the red panda being under the ‘umbrella’ of conservational efforts for the giant panda, will start to feel the effects of these protection methods soon?

 

And finally: Sadly, earlier this year, the Red Panda Network announced that poaching of the red panda had increased in 2016! Their annual International Red Panda Day (17th September 2016) will focus on anti-poaching initiatives.

The road ahead may still be long but there is hope for the future of the red panda. Conservation efforts are starting to produce results for not only the giant panda but tigers also, why not for the red panda? They have so much going for them. To me they are sweet, endearing animals, they are all superstars, none other than Ming Ming!

Thanks for reading.

Christine x


Further reading:

Angela Glatston: Red Panda: Biology and Conservation of the First Panda.

Whence the Red Panda? Flynn JJ, Nedbal MA, Dragoo JW, Honeycutt RL.

http://redpandanetwork.org/red_panda/about-the-red-panda/

http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/red-panda

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_panda

If you have been inspired by what you have read, then why not continue the message? You can join in with this years International Red Panda Day at your local animal park/zoo.

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Looking Back, and Ahead.

Among the highlights of the year for me, was seeing Cunard’s Three Queens wow Liverpool, visiting the Tower of London Poppies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and of course seeing Jonathan Firth in a starring role in Gaslight, in Northampton. GoGoDragons in Norwich was the only night away from home, yet we enjoyed many days out and even renewed our membership at Chester Zoo whose Islands were outstanding!

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The musical highlight of 2015 has been a new appreciation of Dvorak’s 9th symphony, ‘The New World.’

Looking ahead, there are many art installations to see in 2016, and days out structured around them. Among them are:

  • The Herd of Sheffield, where more than 40 sculptures of elephants will grace the city’s streets the summer of 2016
  • The Big Read: Birmingham. Like the book benches seen in London in 2014, these new creations will be seen during the summer of 2016.
  • #PoppiesTour is coming to Caernarfon Castle in the autumn of 2016

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For many more street art installations follow the link to Wild in Art. Perhaps you will go to see one of the other exhibitions listed?

Chiefly, the event I am most eager to see is Hans Zimmer’s concert at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham this coming April. The tickets are booked (though cost a small fortune) and the car parking is paid for. I simply can’t wait! It should be a fantastic night of music! My expectations are already sky high!!

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Though the run up to Christmas this year was not plain sailing, and there will be more worrying times ahead, I don’t want to dwell on the sadness but keep a hold of the positives. Christmas was spent with friends and loved ones and the New Year will be spent in a similar vein.

All that is left is for me to wish you good health and happiness for 2016!

© 2015 Christine Lucas.

Monsoon Forest at Chester Zoo

Monsoon Forest, the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK is finally open!

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

David and I decided to use what time we had left of our Chester Zoo membership, and take a day trip to see how the new exhibit had taken shape.

Monsoon Forest is part of the bigger project, Islands, at Chester Zoo and I have reviewed our preview visit here: https://redpanda08.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/islands-at-chester-zoo/.

After walking through the islands of Panay and the mysterious Papua with it’s Cassowary’s and mist.

We finally reached Sumba with it’s Lazy Boat Ride. I personally love this ride, it is so tranquil and today was no exception. While the zoo filled up with guests we sat in a boat and relaxed in the quietude of the river ride.

We saw the Visayan Warty Pigs and later on the Banteng, both enclosures look lovely!

After disembarking the boat we made our way to Bali where we watched doves and Javan Sparrows flit about freely. It made me comment that Islands is almost like a zoo within a zoo! There are many facets of Islands yet to be discovered.

Finally, it was onto Monsoon Forest! The biome is temperature controlled and the first area we entered was Tripa Forest Research Station which has views of the Orang-utan’s enclosure for when they are finally settled.

Tripa Forest Research Station

Tripa Forest Research Station

The research station was well designed and very authentic feeling. I loved the display of research papers amongst actual exhibits for the smaller insects/animals in the zoo’s collection.

Exhibit with spiders and leeches etc..

Exhibit with spiders and leeches etc..

Then it was into the rainforest itself, where apparently it rains sometimes! There were no birds free flying but there will be in time!

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

As like any other exhibit you see the animals when they want to be seen, and today the Rhinoceros Hornbill was sitting on it’s perch but the Sulawesi Macaques were fast asleep high up in their enclosure. The Sumatran Tigers have been relocated to islands but are acclimatising to their new surroundings. It will be wonderful to see them in their huge new home when it is open to the public.

There have been many pictures of the new exhibit, the Sunda Gharial crocodile but all David and I saw was the head of the animal, it’s huge body and tail was submerged under water!

We spent a good hour in Islands, this our second visit. It is an exhibit that can be visited again and again and something new would be witnessed each time. The new venture for Chester Zoo can only go from strength to strength. Also with this new land being available it is opening up more space within the zoo to bring in more species. The Sun Bear is an excellent example which will be housed in the old tiger enclosure. Something to look forward to in the future. 🙂


Today was also The Red Panda Network’s International Red Panda Day!

I celebrated it at the Red Panda enclosure of Chester Zoo, while waiting and failing to see the two baby Red Pandas. Maybe next time?

International Red Panda Day

International Red Panda Day

Later on while leaving the zoo and perusing their gift shop, David and I came across Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda, and I just had to have her for my ever growing collection of Red Pandas!

Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda

Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda

Happy International Red Panda Day!!

Christine xx

Islands at Chester Zoo

On Saturday David and I headed towards Chester Zoo for our pre-booked members preview of their new ‘most ambitious’ development, Islands.

Chester Zoo. Islands

Chester Zoo. Islands

The premise of the new enclosures, of six South East Asian Islands, is for them to be an immersive exhibition where the visitor is to be the ‘intrepid explorer!’ The project has taken over five years and cost in the region of £40 million! It is the ‘biggest’ development in the history of UK zoos! It opens to the public on the 13th July 2015 but I think that is slightly premature as there are still building works going on, a few of the Islands are not completed and only the Visayan Warty Pigs are in their enclosures. The Sumatran Tigers and Orang-utan’s have yet to be relocated!

I thought that the opportunity for members to see the new development before it opens to the public was a nice gesture on behalf of the zoo. It was an opportunity I jumped at, though I was a little trepid on finding out that not all of the animals were in their enclosures and that the Biome – Monsoon Forest was not open.

Our allocated time was 11am. With ticket in hand David and I headed for the queue at the entrance of the new development. There was an excited buzz in the air from the other zoo guests.

The adventure begins!

The adventure begins!

The sun shone down and I regretted bringing my jacket and not having sun screen on! The Islands that are open to the public in this first phase are: Panay, Bali, Papua, Sumba and Sulawesi as well as the Lazy Boat Ride. 😀

The first Island you encounter on your exhibition, is Panay with its white Coral Sands! It is based on a real island in the Philippines.

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The vegetation changes as you enter Bali.

Bali

Bali

The Island of Sumba is where you catch the Lazy River Boat Ride. It can be a very long wait on busy days, but we only queued for about 5-10 minutes! They despatch two boats at a time each carrying up to 17 explorers! David and I hopped into one and enjoyed the leisurely cruise. For me it was the most enjoyable part of the experience! It will be even better once the project is complete and the animals are happy in their new homes! For now we enjoyed the warmth of the sun, drifted past the Visayan Warty Pigs and watched as the new enclosures and exhibits were being developed.

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Our preview lasted just over half an hour. Some people stopped off at Sulawesi and lunched at Manado Town. I was really energised by the experience and look forward to visiting again once the project is fully completed. It will be a shame that by that time our membership will have run out by then!


Afterwards we had lunch at the Red Pandas, two of whom came out for bamboo.

Male Red Panda

Male Red Panda

We went to visit the Giant Otters but because there were too many people at the enclosure we decided to leave them for another day. I haven’t been to the zoo for a while and forgot how busy of a summer it can get!

We enjoyed seeing lots of baby’s. One was of a Spectacled Owl chick who was bigger than its parents and Red Breasted Geese chicks. We also saw the recent Giraffe calf and the Onager foals. The pictures below were taken by David!

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Even the two baby Asian Elephants were kidding about in the mud!

I always love going to Chester Zoo, even if we only stay a few hours we always get to see something new! I will be sad when our membership runs out, perhaps I can bend David’s arm and renew again soon? :p

The Year that was 2014!

…and Finally!!!

After over 18 months of hard work, changing both back and front doors, having a new roof put on and totally redecorating all rooms. We have… MOVED in to our new house!! 😀

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We spent all of the 27th moving my bed and essentials in. I was exhausted from all the going back and forth! Thank heavens it was only to next door! 🙂

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Yesterday we spent most of the day shopping for things for the house, like colanders and waste paper baskets! In the evening we had our first meal in our ‘Red Panda’ dining room and today as David was out at his brothers doing yet more painting! I helped myself to some more ‘corked’ champaign and had my first soak/relax in the bathroom! I listened to Classic FM and read Kate Mosse.

Champaign bath!I think we have made a home we can be very happy in! Fingers crossed for a fun filled future! 😀

Happy New Year for 2014!

Christine xx

Too Much of a Good Thing…

…you can never get enough!

Here’s video and more pictures of the International Red Panda Day at Welsh Mountain Zoo… Enjoy!

Thrigby Tales.

Day Four:

Today, though David and I were both tired from all the days out we have had over the weekend. We ended the short break in the style of how we used to holiday, by cramming in as much as possible to the day!

After our light breakfast, and I mean light as David doesn’t eat breakfast! We said our farewell to Dawn and checked out of the B&B. We made our way to Norwich Cathedral and got some nice pictures with lovely blue sky above!

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We then headed further east to Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, as we wanted to update our zoo website, and this animal park was one we hadn’t visited before.

I was a bit depressed at the state of the big cat enclosures. They were all made of wire mesh which wasn’t very good for photography. The Swamp House and small cat enclosures were better though. We had lunch besides the Red Panda enclosure and saw one of their Reds. He was a sorry sight! The poor little fellow had had half of his body shaved and his poor little tail was a thin wisp of a thing. To me he looked like he was trying to be a lion with his mane. I just wanted to cuddle the little fellow!

The pinnacle of the visit was our trip to the gift shop. On approaching the manor house I said to David, ‘I doubt I’ll get any Red Panda cuddlies here.’ Then lo and behold as we walked through the entrance! There sitting on a shelf right opposite the door was four huge Red Panda toys! The biggest I’ve seen! My eyes widened in excitement and I just had to buy one for my collection at whatever cost! I won’t tell you how much he was but I have purchased three Red Panda cuddly toys over the weekend and spent almost £60!! Yes, there is no hope for me, I am crazy! 😀

So on our return journey of four and a half hours across country, I sat cuddling with Roz, my big Red Panda toy!

We have been so very lucky with the weather this weekend as it has only rained when we have been in the car.

Sitting in slow moving traffic around Birmingham I felt my spirits sag as we drew ever closer home and back to reality. It has been a much needed break away from renovating the house and the drudgery of work. It almost felt like we were the carefree Christine and David of old. I go back to work on Wednesday, and I expect that to be a hectic stress filled day, but I have to pay for my Red Panda toys somehow!! 😀

The stare of the Leopard.

Day Three:

Sunday was a much more relaxed kind of day. After getting up too early on a Sunday morning (7.30) for 8am breakfast which was nice, granola and coffee. David and I headed to Banham Zoo only 30 minutes drive from the B&B. We arrived at 10am and spent the next five hours there, walking the pathways looking at the Amur Tiger, Sri Lankan Leopard, Red Panda and taking in yet another flying display! The highlight of the day was catching a Mongoose with its baby! So cute!

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After 3pm we left the zoo, I with two cuddly Red Pandas in tow. 🙂

For the evening meal we went to a local pub, Brewers fayre, which was like a Wetherspoon’s to me. The place was buzzing with people enjoying the carvery and kids screaming!! What joy!! David had yet another curry while I after requesting a vegetable lasagna ended up happy with a chilli bean and rice, my favourite! Nice! 😀 We even had dessert of chocolate and strawberry sundaes 🙂 You can imagine which one David had? 🙂

Now after 10pm, we are relaxing with cups of tea after a nice bath. We are getting ready for bed… sleep tight.

Very Distracted!

I don’t know what’s up with me today but I can’t seem to be able to concentrate or motivate myself! I must be thankful for being half packed for my much needed weekend away to the East coast of England starting this Friday!!

Last year I had booked a five day holiday to Norfolk but with my father’s sudden illness and then subsequent passing meant I had to cancel. 😦 This year I had already booked a one nights stay in a farmhouse not far from Colchester as I intend to visit the ‘Stand Tall‘ exhibition of painted giraffes at the zoo. With my boss at the Royal Liverpool Hospital being on holiday for two weeks I decided to try and extend the one nights stay to three!!

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I managed to get my own way, and booked another two nights this time in a B&B not far from Norwich, Norfolk. I will get there eventually! I intend to visit Banham Zoo to see their collection, as well as their Red Panda pair but then I don’t know what else to do. Go to other zoos in the region or visit a few sights in Norwich like the cathedral?

I usually have a whole itinerary written down by now, but as the extra two nights were just decided upon I am in a flurry as to what and where to visit. I also keep checking the weather forecast daily as most of what I want to do is mainly outdoors and is weather dependent. Unfortunately it looks like this lovely sunny ‘late summer’ weather we are having doesn’t look like it is going to last into next week.

Keep your fingers and toes crossed with me that the weather holds for the weekend and I look forward to sharing with you all my pictures and video. 🙂

Christine x