Family Day

As the name suggests, Family Day is a day for family. It’s a time to celebrate with our loved ones, an opportunity to be with whomever we choose to surround ourselves with, and to reminisce on the memories of the year. No year and no family is the same, but taking time to remember those we have lost and to celebrate the new members of our families is important. When you work at a zoo, you could say your family has one of the strangest compositions imaginable, but there are some universal similarities. The family members that dress in fabulous pink always catch everyone’s eye, a few family members will butt heads every spring, and the babies always steal the show. At the Greater Vancouver Zoo, it’s safe to say the baby Red Pandas (born in June of 2022) did exactly that.

Red Pandas have made waves on social media over the past few years due to their fluffy red fur and complete failure to look intimidating when they stand on their hind legs, but as with every species the babies always elevate the cuteness to a new level. Arun, a first-time father, and Sakura, a more experienced mother, produced the first BC born Red Panda babies back in June and we are happy to report the whole family is getting along famously and are all healthy.

Unfortunately, not all red pandas can celebrate the same success and safety as Arun and Sakura. Red Pandas are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with a wild population decline estimated around 50% over the past 18 years (3 generations) in 2015. With common global threats such as climate change, habitat loss, and habitat fragmentation putting pressure on the Himalayan ecosystems, the problems don’t stop there. Red Pandas are highly bamboo and tree dependant. The trees provide safety, the bamboo provides 98% of their diet, and both get decimated by human encroachment. Bamboo undergoes a cyclical bloom and die off, and as soil quality degrades and the habitat fragments, bamboo struggles to re-establish. To add to this, bamboo that would grow nicely on gentle slopes has been increasingly trampled underfoot with the increase in cattle farming. With an increase in cattle herds comes an increase in herding dogs and stray dogs, which aren’t just a threat through direct hunting but also through infecting Red Pandas with canine distemper and rabies which are lethal in Red Pandas and not currently curable with known vaccines.

There are many more threats to Red Pandas but weirdly enough one of the newer threats is actually their popularity. Current trends suggest that the pet trade is having a continued impact on their wild populations as their cute appearance seems to mark them as a “desirable” pet and increased access to the native habitats provides an unsavory business venture. For the record, even if their populations weren’t under threat, Red Pandas don’t make good pets. They will mark anything in their territory with their scent, they generally prefer their solitude, they enjoy climbing and being perched up high, and have very specialized diet and living conditions. If you want the snuggles without all the hassle, I would love to redirect you to your local animal shelter to adopt a cat instead.

Despite all of the above, everything isn’t doom and gloom. Passionate and hardworking people are working in-situ (in their native spaces), to keep this species and their native habitats alive. The Red Panda Network is just one of the organizations working tirelessly to build up local communities that are invested in the future of the species and helping them find alternatives to mitigate their impacts where possible. The Red Panda Network does too many things for me to properly sum up, but between educating, researching, creating alternative and sustainable industries, as well as improving the efficiency of available technology and working to create protected forest areas, it’s hard to guess what their next initiative could possible be!

With every in-situ conservation effort, ex-situ (out of the native habitat) efforts should almost always be present. Breeding programs are active world wide in accredited institutions to produce genetically healthy populations with the available captive populations, and new genetics only coming forward from rescues that would not survive on their own. Species Survival Plans are present for many endangered animals world wide, and through these programs the genetics, care, and placement of these animals is closely monitored and strategically coordinated to ensure the best results possible as a unified effort.

In celebration of Family Day we encourage everyone to reflect on their families, spend time with your loved ones and, if you have the capacity, expand your family just a bit to include a few of those in need. If you want to include Red Pandas in your family, learning about them and continuing the conversation with others is an easy first step. If you want to do more, you can learn all about ways you can help the Red Panda Network at their website below, and there’s an important way you can help Arun and Sakura as well. Naming babies can be a challenge and we are looking for your help in doing just that!

Visit for more information on how to help us name these two new family members and, if you’re like me and include personality in the naming process, we are open 7 days a week if you want to visit!


IUCN. (n.d.). Red Panda. (Accessed February 16)

Red Panda Network. (n.d.). Get Involved. (Accessed February 16)

Categories: Animals

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