After the death of two rare red pandas at a zoo in Darjeeling, probe has been ordered to get at the cause of their death. More so, as this zoo is coordinating the breeding of the endangered animals in the country. Red pandas are primarily herbivores and are found in the forests of the Eastern Himalayas. They spend their days on treetops and come down in the evening in search of bamboo leaves and fruits.
The dead male pandas – one aged 11 and the other 12 – were not zoo bred but rescued from nearby forests and brought to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park .
The zoo’s director said the pandas died due to old age even as Azam Zaidi, the chief wildlife warden and principal conservator of forests of West Bengal, ordered a probe into the incident. Experts said the ideal life span of a red panda is 16 years.
There are currently six male and as many female red pandas at the zoo, where the animals are being bred in captivity since 1994 under Project Red Panda. Such breeding is also carried out at the Gangtok zoo in Sikkim and Itanagar zoo in Arunachal Pradesh. A recent survey showed that there were around 32 red pandas in Singalila National Park and another 38 in Neora Valley National Park, both in Darjeeling district.
“In a secure environment (such as a zoo), a male red panda can live up to 16 years or more. The span gets reduced under stress when in the wild,” said Sunita Pradhan, an authority on red pandas.
The first red pandas made to breed under Project Red Panda were brought from several European zoos in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since then, there have been around 40 zoo-bred pandas at the zoo.