The Greenville Zoo has a few new residents.
Zoo director Jeff Bullock announced on Tuesday, June 19, the arrival of three red panda cubs born to Collette, the zoo’s 6-year-old female, and Zheng, the zoo’s 8-year-old male.
The cubs, which have not been named yet, are the first set of triplets born at the Greenville Zoo since 2006. They are the first offspring for Collette and Zheng. Collette previously gave birth to a cub, Willie Nelson, on Father’s Day in 2015. The cub was later transferred to the Knoxville Zoo as part of the Red Panda Species Survival Program (SSP).
“We still worry anytime an animal goes into labor, but by Wednesday morning, all three cubs were squeaking and squirming in the nest box, with Collette taking excellent care of her new litter,” Bullock said in a news release. “At this point, all three cubs are doing well, appear healthy and happy, have good weight, and are active.”
The zoo was aware of Collette’s pregnancy thanks to several ultrasounds performed earlier this year, according to Bullock.
Jennifer Stahl, who maintains the zoo’s Asian Forest exhibit, found Collette in the process of giving birth as she was making her final rounds before closing early last week, according to Bullock. The zoo’s staff then performed a quick exam when Collette left her nesting box to eat, discovering two female cubs and one male cub.
Bullock said the three red panda cubs are still too young to open their eyes and rely completely on Collette for care. Guests, however, may be able to catch a quick glimpse of the cubs as Collette moves them from one den to another.
Red pandas are native to Asia and are commonly found in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, the zoo said in the release.
The animals, which have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years, are known for their red and off-white markings, large puffy tails, and pointed ears. Like giant pandas, they require specialized diets and eat large amounts of bamboo each day.
Today, the red panda faces numerous conservation threats, including hunting, poaching, deforestation, and habitat fragmentation. It is currently listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
The Red Panda SSP is designed to ensure the survival of threatened or endangered species by monitoring captive populations and making breeding recommendations based on genetic variability and spaces available at other accredited institutions. Both Collette and Zheng were transferred to Greenville as a recommendation by the program, Bullock said.
Collette was born on June 11, 2012, at Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, S.D. She was transferred to the Greenville Zoo in March 2013, according to the release. Zheng was born on June 24, 2008, at the Detroit Zoo and was transferred to the Greenville Zoo in December 2016.
The Greenville Zoo is also home to Scarlett, a 13-year-old female red panda. She was also transferred to the zoo as part of the Red Panda SSP. She currently residents in the exhibit next to Zheng and Collette’s habitat.
For more information, visit greenvillezoo.com.