Auckland Zoo is celebrating the birth of a Nepalese red panda cub, describing its delivery, a little earlier than
anticipated, as “a precious early Christmas present”.
• The tiny arrival to first-time parents, mum Khela and dad Ramesh, is estimated to have weighed around 100gm when
born overnight on 1 December. Now over 250grams, the newborn is a very valuable addition to zoos’ international breeding
programme for this ‘Endangered’ species (IUCN Red List) under threat from deforestation and illegal hunting.
“Red panda breed just once a year and normally give birth from late December through January, so we were pretty
surprised, but over the moon, to discover this precious little cub curled up with Khela in the nest box when we arrived
at work,” says the Zoo’s Carnivore team leader, Lauren Booth.
“It’s never possible to predict exactly when animals will breed and give birth. This year it became warmer much earlier
than usual, so this could have been an environmental cue for Khela and Ramesh to breed earlier than we anticipated –
something we may see more often with climate change.”
Four-year-old Khela moved to Auckland Zoo from Hamilton Zoo last year to be paired up with three-year-old male Ramesh,
and is proving to be an exceptional first-time mum to the 17th red panda cub to be born at Auckland Zoo.
“Khela is naturally confident and calm. From the camera in the nest box, we saw from the start that her newborn was
suckling well, and is now a very healthy size for its age. Khela’s doing everything right for her little one and also
looking after herself to ensure she continues to be a great provider. She’s been venturing outside for brief periods to
eat and take short naps up in the trees, which has given us the opportunity to briefly health check and weigh her cub,”
Zoo red panda helping red panda in the wild
As well as contributing to the international breeding programme for red panda, Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund, with
support from Zoo visitors, supports Nepal’s Red Panda Network (RPN), a project Lauren has had first-hand experience
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with red panda here at the Zoo for over 10 years. I’ve also been privileged
to have joined RPN’s forest guardians and other amazing staff as they work to save red panda in the wild – through
monitoring, education and empowering local communities. This year our funds have also supported the growing and
transplanting of tree species eaten by red panda in an effort to restore degraded red panda habitat in Nepal’s Taplejung
“It’s heartening to know that our support here in Aotearoa really does make a positive difference to help this unique
and extraordinary species that is so vital to these forest ecosystems and local people who depend on them,” says Lauren.
Follow Khela’s cub’s progress
Red panda cubs are blind for the first 18 days of life and fully dependent on their mothers for their first three
months, and independent by eight months. Khela will keep her cub tucked away in the next box until she’s happy for it to
venture outside with her – likely to be in late February/early March. The sex of Khela’s cub will be determined in eight
weeks’ time when a full veterinary health check takes place.
While Zoo visitors won’t be able to see Khela’s cub until later this summer, we’ll be bringing everyone regular updates,
photos and videos via our Auckland Zoo’s social channels.
Notes to Editor Auckland Zoo’s red panda Khela gave birth overnight in an off-display nest box on 1 Dec Khela’s cub is
the 17th Nepalese red panda cub to be born at Auckland Zoo Father, three-year-old Ramesh who was born at Auckland Zoo in
• The sex of Khela’s cub will become determined at its 10-week veterinary health check Auckland Zoo is currently
home to five red panda: Khela and Ramesh and their cub, and females Bo and her daughter Mohini (both currently off
• Red panda cubs are born blind and helpless and dependent on their mothers for their first three months. Visitors
to Auckland Zoo will likely be able to view Khela’s cub from late February/early March. In the meantime, the Zoo
encourages everyone to check out its social media channels and website for updates including photos and video content.
Red panda Facts The red panda (also known as the fire fox) lives in the mountains of Nepal and northern Myanmar (Burma),
as well as in central China Its average life span is eight to 12 years, though red panda can live considerably longer in
• It is estimated there could now be as few as 2,500 red panda remaining in the wild (and approximately 500 in
zoos worldwide) The IUCN List classifies the red panda as ‘Endangered’. It is threatened by illegal hunting an
deforestation, with remaining populations becoming fragmented and isolated from each other.
• The Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund supports the work of Red Panda Network in Nepal. Public can help Auckland Zoo
support the work of Red Panda Network by donating here: www.aucklandzoo.co.nz/get-involved/conservation