Shifu, the red panda at ZooSafari de Thoiry, is trained every week for his health to get close to people.

He is reserved, shy and fearful. He doesn’t hide, but he doesn’t let you in either. The red panda does not like human society, and she makes it known. At the ZooSafari in Tuari, keepers struggle to see Shifu, “the zoo’s little red-haired star.”

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“As soon as we approached his cage, he climbed five meters and did not come down. This created a problem because we could not examine him and find out if he was doing well or not,” explains Marin Brochard, who has worked at the zoo for two and a half years. The trainer speaks in the past, and it is not in vain that since this summer she has organized a “training” with Shifu: a muscle training adapted to the animal.

Muscle exercises adapted for the red panda

“In order to make him more sociable with us, I developed a series of exercises aimed at getting him to come up to me, open up and gain confidence. »

Marine Brochard (zookeeper)

Marin Brochard has been going to her cage for five months, several times a week, and thanks to the exercises she does not run away. “In order for us to get closer, the training is to establish a relationship like “if you do this, then I give you this”. In fact, I’m trying to talk him into both of us being winners. »

The actual progress is the red panda Tuari, 8 years old award. At the moment Marin Brochard and Shifu are doing two exercises. The zookeeper, who was trained in the training, develops: “The first is to bring me a red panda. I go to his wooden ladder and place the stick in front of, to the right or left of his head. Shifu should come up and touch the tip of the stick with his muzzle. »

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Shifu recorded this mechanism, when he sees a purple plastic stick, he systematically approaches his snout to hit it. Marine Brochard then blew her red whistle. Shifu realizes that he did the exercise well and can get his reward. Yesterday the animal had the right to bananas cut into pieces. Shifu managed to touch the stick ten times in a row.

“This exercise allows me to see his reflexes if something is bothering him, if there are problems with his legs, head and stomach. If so, I’m alerting the zoo’s veterinarians so they can intervene and treat him. »

Marine Brochard (zookeeper)

Educator and animal tame each other

For the second exercise, Marin Brochard asks Shifa to go to a small individual cage: “This is something that will be useful if we need to transport her. Shifu is a good student, “even if it wasn’t easy in the beginning.” Marine Brochard was able to win his trust, and a real relationship was born between them.

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“I am very proud of him, it was not easy to tune in, but this training is really important for him, for his health. »

Marine Brochard (zookeeper)

Next step, close the cage door when Shifu enters. “At the moment, he still does not dare to go too deep, even if today I notice progress, he stayed inside longer than usual. »


Shifu is the only red panda in the zoo. Soon, the female will probably join him: “If this is the case, then training during the ultrasound will be useful,” concludes Marin Brochard.

This type of muscle training is used for panther, gorilla, maned wolf, rhinoceros, spectacled bear and some birds.

Discover our series of portraits dedicated to the different professions that bring life to the Zoo La Tanière, near Chartres: “People of Tanière”.

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