Red panda cubs, we hardly knew ye. Less than four months after going on exhibit at Lincoln Park Zoo, the institution’s two red panda cubs, named Clark and Addison in a zoo contest, have received new marching orders.
In the next couple of weeks the almost 8-month-old male and female will be moved to other institutions at the behest of the Red Panda Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The plan tries to balance population demographics, breeding and animal distribution among its member institutions, the accredited zoos and aquariums of North America.
Until then they can be seen alternating in the Kovler Lion House exhibit with their parents, Leafa and Phoenix. Mornings are generally the most active time for the Himalayan species, which is neither panda, nor bear, nor raccoon, but is somewhat raccoon-like in appearance.
Born in June, the duo became viral stars for the North Side institution thanks to a very high adorability factor. In the terminology of contemporary zoos, they were "charismatic" animals. But they are now weaned and ready to move on, said Dave Bernier, the zoo’s curator of animal care.
“It’s kind of a natural progression of things,” said Bernier. “In order for our red panda pair to breed again, and we do have a recommendation for that, we would need to move our offspring out.” He said that other institutions, yet to be determined, but probably two separate places, have need for young red pandas, which are endangered in the wild. The zoo hopes that it will soon be naming more red pandas, thanks to the SSP recommendation that Leafa and Phoenix reproduce again.
"Breeding season is right about now," Bernier said. "Our hope is they will produce another litter of panda cubs this summer."