Red pandas born at Drusillas Park in Alfriston

Red panda babies at Drusillas SUS-140715-101201001
Red panda babies at Drusillas SUS-140715-101201001

Two red panda babies have been born at Drusillas Park in Alfriston - the first in the zoo’s 89 year history.

As with the giant panda, female red pandas are only fertile for just one day a year and can delay implantation until conditions are favourable.

Red pandas give birth to between one and four young at a time and the cubs are born with pale fluffy fur.

This darkens to the distinctive red coloration of the adults over the first three months.

The twins, which are a boy and a girl, where born on June 16 and were discovered by Head Keeper, Mark Kenward during his early morning rounds.

Mark said: “I entered the panda enclosure and was immediately met by Tibao, our male panda. Unable to see our female, Mulan, I called to her. She appeared from one of the nest boxes shortly after carrying a baby gently in her mouth. She bought the cub over, as if to show me, before returning to the box. I can’t explain how happy I was.”

Since then the keepers have been keeping a close eye on the new arrivals.

At nearly a month old, the panda puffs are gaining between 7-20g a day and have just started to open their eyes. They will be looked after in the nest box by their mum for a while yet but will soon be venturing out to explore their surroundings.

Red pandas are a relatively new addition to the zoo following their introduction in April 2013. Tibao and Mulan were paired as part of the European breeding programme arriving from Asson Zoo in France and Paignton Zoo respectively.

Mark said: “I am so proud of Mulan. She is a natural mum and not put a foot wrong. It is as if she has grown up overnight. Tibao has less to do with the babies but he seems to have an extra spring in his step and has definitely grown in confidence.”

The red pandas inhabit the Himalayan mountains of China, India and Nepal where they are threatened by habitat destruction and hunting and there are now believed to be as few as 10,000 adult individuals left in the wild.