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Rare panda cub delights Auckland Zoo keepers

Published: 1:50PM Monday January 21, 2013 Source: ONE News

Auckland Zoo is celebrating the arrival of a rare red panda cub but visitors may have to wait until April to see the Nepalese native.

The cub, the first offspring of three-year-old red panda Bo and 12-year-old Sagar, was born in the early hours of Christmas Eve last year.

The cub weighed just 105 grams (equal to a medium sized tomato) at birth, and is now estimated to weigh 240 grams. It is the first red panda to be born at the Zoo since 2002.

"We're absolutely stoked," said the Zoo's Carnivore team leader, Bruce Murdock.

"This birth is a fantastic result, especially as Bo was only introduced to Sagar last August, and given female red pandas come into season just twice a year and a male has only a one to two-day window to mate a female.".

"We couldn't ask for a better mum in Bo. She's doing an exceptional job, staying in the nest box for long periods and feeding her cub up to six times a day, and being very attentive."

Murdock said red pandas are dependent on their mother for at least three months, so it could be another eight to 10 weeks before visitors can see the cub venturing out of its nest box into the enclosure.

Auckland Zoo will not be able to confirm the sex of the cub until a vet check in late February.

"But bets are on that we have a female," said Murdock.

As part of the international breeding programme, Auckland Zoo sent female red panda Khosuva to India's Darjeeling Zoo in 2010, where she has been paired up with a breeding male as part of Project Red Panda.

The plan is for Khosuva's offspring to be released into the wild in Nepal.