Zookeepers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are celebrating a tiny new arrival – an endangered red panda cub born the size of a human finger.
Making its diminutive appearance on Friday 19 June, just days after the UK's largest zoo reopened to the public following a three-month closure, the adorable cub is mum Tashi's seventh baby - and, despite its small size, a huge contribution to the vital international conservation breeding program working to support the declining population of this species.
The reddish-brown youngster, who has distinctive white facial markings, white ears and a striped tale, spent the few months of its tiny life being expertly cared for by mum Tashi in their off-show nestbox, but can now be seen exploring its new home - just in time for visitors to enjoy a socially-distanced trips to the Zoo.
The cub will be officially named by keepers after its first health check, when vets will be able to determine its sex.
“Red panda cubs are surprisingly small when they’re first born - about the size of your index finger," explained ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Deputy Team Leader, Grant Timberlake. “But the cub has grown quickly and is about the size of a small puppy now: though it will be a full year before the cub reaches adult size, it will soon begin testing its incredible climbing skills around its leafy tree-top enclosure - closely guided by mum of course.”
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo reopened to the public on Monday 15 June after an unprecedented three months of closure due to the coronavirus lockdown. The loss of income put the charity zoo under huge financial pressure as they continued to provide the highest level of care for their animals.
Now open to limited numbers only, ZSL, the international conservation charity behind the Zoo, is calling on the public to help ensure they stay open by booking a ticket, joining as a member or donating to ZSL.