John Ball Zoo has recently added a new, (very cute) member to its ever-growing animal family. Meet Wyatt, the red panda! Originally from the Chattanooga Zoo in Tennessee, Wyatt arrived at John Ball about a month ago, and resides in a spacious habitat located in the Forest Realm section of the zoo at the top of the waterfall. Donning thick red fur, a long striped tail and a face that will melt your heart, Wyatt has been making himself right at home.
The 5-year-old red panda is part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) because of the species’ endangered status. The program is designed to help save animals from extinction through targeted breeding. The number of red pandas in the wild has decreased by 50 percent in the last 18 years; according to John Ball Zoo, some estimates reveal that there are less than 2,500 adult red pandas left in the wild.
Currently, Wyatt is the only red panda in the exhibit, which officially opens to the public on Saturday, August 12, but not to worry! Red pandas are solitary animals, meaning Wyatt is content on his own.
Native to the Himalayas, red pandas are most comfortable in temperatures below 55 degrees. Wyatt’s habitat has been carefully thought out, and designed to facilitate his specific needs. The space provides plenty of room for Wyatt to explore, and a custom-built, bamboo-pipe playscape with a built-in cooling feature that allows Wyatt to relax in the hot weather. The exhibit also includes a chilly enclosed space for Wyatt to escape the heat and get some shut-eye.
When the active red panda isn’t busy exploring the nooks and crannies of his habitat or greeting guests with heart-warming stares, you’ll find Wyatt munching on a healthy portion of bamboo, which makes up about 95 percent of his diet.
Volunteers and staff members at John Ball Zoo anticipate that Wyatt will be a hit among guests and are excited for the public to witness his outgoing personality and unique habits. While the zoo isn’t looking to add another red panda to the exhibit for at least a year, the idea of finding a pal for Wyatt isn’t off of the table–maybe even a lady-friend.
For more information about John Ball Zoo, visit www.jbzoo.org.