On Wednesday, May 12, Asa, a young red panda born at a zoo on the banks of the Seine, arrived at the Zoological and Botanical Park in Mulhouse as part of a European breeding program that promotes the reproduction of endangered species.
Charming face, magnificent coat and fluffy striped tail. Meet Asa, an eleven-month-old female red panda. She has just arrived, on Wednesday, May 12, in the evening at the zoological and botanical park of Mulhouse. She had left the Maritime Seine the day before. The purpose of this transfer: to enable him to start a family in Alsace.
As for Asa, the Mulhouse Zoo does not accept everyone. Because in its own way, the little “pandetta” is already a celebrity. She was born on June 4, 2020 in the Cleres Animal and Botanical Park, near Rouen. First child of his parents, Tao and Chaiya.
To choose his name, the Seine-Maritime department launched a social media poll. We even talked about her at France Inter, and she was almost called Chantal. But in the end, it was Asa, “Hope” in Nepali, that won the vote. His christening took place on September 20, on the occasion of International Red Panda Day.
During the first year of life, the girl grew rapidly. She has reached her adult size, a cat, and weighs about three kilograms. She has also evolved. Very attached to her mother in the first few months, she gradually got used to her caregivers. To the point of standing before their feet and taking the fruit from hand to hand.
New place to live
But every young girl must one day run and leave the place of her childhood. For Asa, this moment has come, because she has a great mission ahead of her: to become a mother in her turn. On Tuesday, May 11, she was caught in her enclosure and then placed in a special cage designed for transportation. Many very touched people, healers, veterinarians, animators and administrative staff of the Parc de Clare came to say goodbye to him. She traveled with a professional, a specialist in this kind of expedition. And so I just made it to my new “home sweet home” without incident.
She sniffs and spends her time studying. But this morning she had already eaten a little.
When she arrived she was a little shy “shy” according to Bryce Lefoe, director of the Mulhouse Zoo. “She looked everywhere in her enclosure. She sniffs and explores all the time. But this morning she had already eaten a little.”
Ash will take some time. Assign him a new place of life and get to know his coaches. She will remain alone in a closed enclosure for several days. Early next week “when this first phase of exploration has diminished and she begins to calm down and eat calmly”she will be able to go out to open the open case.
And then, in the indoor enclosure next door, there is already Ima, her future prince charming. Not far from five kilos, but two weeks younger than him. He was born at the Auvergne Zoo and arrived a week before his bride. “Ima has already acclimatized well” says Brice Lefoe. And even if it’s too early for a real face-to-face meeting, the two red pandas are slowly getting to know each other because “they see and feel each other.”
The Mulhouse Zoo has been preparing for several weeks to welcome the young couple. Since the end of April, their arrival has been reported on social media, at the same time as the departure of two Mulhouse females to the Straubing Zoo in Bavaria.
Exchanges between zoos to promote breeding
These exchanges between animal parks take place under the European Breeding Program (EEP), led by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The goal is to help endangered species reproduce. With the idea of being able one day, under the best conditions, to release certain people into their natural environment.
In the zoo, the choice of a partner is too limited. Hence these transmissions to avoid consanguinity and to ensure the diversity of the genetic heritage. Therefore, the European coordinator took into account Asa’s genes in order to assign him his ideal Romeo.
The red panda is “the cutest mammal in the world.”
At 19and century, the French zoologist Frederic Cuvier described the red panda as “the cutest mammal in the world”. But today this animal, more closely related to the skunk and raccoon than to the giant panda, is in danger of extinction, threatened by deforestation and hunting. In twenty years, its population in the wild would have halved. In its natural habitat, mainly in the vast Asian forests, fewer than 2,500 individuals would remain.
This shows how each new birth in the EPP program is a small victory. And how many hopes are now placed on the future couple. Once Asa gets used to her outdoor enclosure, she and Ima can reunite there. To find out more. And maybe more.