Hertfordshire zoo in the United Kingdom welcomed a newborn red panda in July, according to a release. The little boy is now called “Red Panda” as the zoo waits until he is old enough for a veterinary exam.
The birth is good news for conservation worldwide: There are fewer than 2,500 red pandas left in the wild, according to the release.
In the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China, the beautiful birds are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Populations are declining due to loss of habitat and the search for food, medicine, and clothing, according to the IUCN.
And the new baby is a “miracle” for its parents, according to the zoo. The baby was born to mother Tilly and father Nam Pang, who died a month before the child was born. The couple were matched by an international fertility program but have not conceived in the past four years. But keepers noticed that Tilly started nesting two weeks after her husband died.
“Little Red” did not leave his nest for several months. But visitors can see his mother.
“This cub has become a symbol of hope,” said Aaron Whitnall, operations coordinator at the zoo. “After the tragic passing of Nam Pang, for his memory and legacy to live on, it’s more than we could have imagined.”
Despite their names, red pandas are more closely related to raccoons and weasels than black and white pandas, the World Wildlife Fund says. But both species depend on a diet based on bamboo, which gives them their name. Panda is believed to come from the Nepali word “ponya” for “bamboo or herbivorous animal,” according to the WWF.