You heard recently from Dr. Ann Duncan, Director of Animal Health for the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS), about a female red panda cub born at the Detroit Zoo on July 6. Keti, the offspring of 4-year-old mother Ash and 3-year-old father Ravi, is being hand-reared. Ash was a young first-time mother, just learning what it meant to take care of a newborn. Using remote cameras, staff observed attempts at good maternal care, but Ash didn’t have all of the skills needed to raise a newborn cub. At two days of age, for Keti’s health and welfare, the decision was made to move her into the hospital nursery; where she spent her first four months being cared for by the DZS’s expert veterinary and animal care staff.
As Keti grew she graduated from incubator, to play pen, and then a section of the nursery. When old and mobile enough, she was able to go outdoors into a small grassy yard. Red panda mothers will often carry cubs with their mouths up into trees for “climbing school”. To mimic this natural behavior, staff placed Keti up onto the logs and higher branches and added logs and large branches arranged in such a way for her to practice climbing. Keti’s human caregivers stood watch and made sure she was safe while she took her first steps. She soon became confident and enjoyed spending time outside. She seemed to enjoy watching the leaves blow in the wind, and on several occasions took short naps in the grass after a long day of play.
When Keti turned four months old, it was time for her to leave the nursery. She is now building upon the climbing skills she learned in the nursery yard with access to a much larger and more complex space that includes taller trees. This enriching habitat is a great place for a young panda to learn and develop skills she will need for the rest of her life. The yard is filled with grass, bushes and plenty of trees to climb. Keti is also learning to eat the adult red panda diet which includes specially formulated biscuits and bamboo. She loves to eat the buds and munches on the few leaves remaining on the trees. She was even able to experience her first snow storm in November when Mother Nature surprised us early this season with several inches of fresh fluffy snow. She jumped through the snow piles and became all snowy herself. Although the snow has melted, Keti loves to go outdoors each day. The animal care staff spends time with her, watching as she explores the higher branches with increased skill and confidence. Soon she will be ready to join Ash, Ravi and “aunt” Ta-Shi in the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest.
– Betsie Meister is an Associate Curator for Mammals for the Detroit Zoological Society.