EXCITEMENT may be mounting in Edinburgh over the potential pregnancy of giant panda Tian Tian, but Chester Zoo are already celebrating the arrival of two red pandas, seen here getting the 'once over' by zookeepers.
The twins, a boy and a girl, were born a to first-time mum Nima and dad Jung and keepers say they were alerted to their arrival after hearing “little squeaks” from a nest box.
The cubs were born a few weeks ago but keepers have only now been able to get a good look at them for the first time.
Keeper Maxine Bradley said: “Our two cubs are in very good shape. They’re big and strong with very thick fur - our male weighed in at just under 1kg and our female 842g.
"We’re really pleased with how well they’re doing and, as soon as we had given them a health check, we popped them back into their nest. It’ll be several weeks until they start to emerge and explore.”
Red pandas, whose scientific name Ailurus fulgens means ‘brilliant cat’, are native to the steep forested slopes of the Himalayas.
They are a one-of-a-kind in the animal kingdom as they have no close living relatives. Conservation experts have listed them as endangered in the wild, as they are threatened by poaching and shrinking habitat.
About red pandas and Chester Zoo
• Not only has Chester Zoo been successful at breeding red pandas but the zoo also play an important role in helping safeguard the future of this rare species in its Chinese homeland
• The zoo supports the Sichuan Forest Biodiversity Project in the Sichuan Mountains of China, which is where red pandas are found in the wild. They also live in China's Yunnan province, the Himalayas and Nepal
• The future survival of the species is increasingly vulnerable as developers are taking over the bamboo forests which they depend on to live. Bamboo is the main food in their daily diet. They're also hunted for their prized red fur which in parts of the world is used to make hats for newlyweds. They believe it symbolises a happy marriage
• Chester Zoo’s red panda family also provides a vital input to a carefully managed international zoos breeding programme
• Chester Zoo is a registered conservation charity that supports projects around the world and in the UK. Welcoming 1.4 million visitors a year, it is the largest zoo in the UK; home to 11,000 animals, over 400 different species, many of which are endangered
• Through its wildlife conservation campaign, Act for Wildlife, the zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction.