PRESS RELEASE — In early April, John Ball Zoo (JBZ) announced the arrival of a female red panda named Wasabi, and how she was getting to know the Zooʼs popular male red panda Wyatt behind the scenes.
The introductions went smoothly and guests can now see the pair in their habitat as they continue to get to know each other. Wyatt confidently returned to his home and quickly began scent marking around the space. Wasabi was a little reserved at first but is now exploring her new surroundings.
While they got to know each, their habitat was modified with a new viewing window to inside the red panda building, along with an addition for possible red panda cubs.
JBZ would like guests to note how red pandas are typically solitary in nature, so it is possible that Wyatt and Wasabi may at times take turns on exhibit, but Zoo officials are pleased with the introduction process so far.
Wyatt was born at the Bronx Zoo in June 2012 and arrived at John Ball Zoo in 2017, where he quickly became a guest favorite. Wasabi is 2 years old and joined JBZ from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
Red pandas are an endangered species because of habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade. It is believed there are less than 2,500 adult red pandas left in the wild.
JBZ participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the red panda. The SSP oversees the population management of select species within the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums member institutions (i.e., AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, Conservation Partners, and Certified Related Facilities (CRFs) and to enhance conservation of this species in the wild.
The John Ball Zoo is located on Fulton Ave. just one mile west of downtown Grand Rapids. Weekend hours are 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and weekday hours are 9:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. For more information, visit jbzoo.org or call (616) 336-4301.
Red Panda Facts
• The soles of red pandas feet are covered in fur to keep them warm and provide a better grip.
• Their fluffy tail helps them keep balance when climbing. Plus, when itʼs really cold, it can be used as a blanket to keep warm.
• Red pandas are not related to giant pandas. They are the only living member of their taxonomic family.
• Red pandas have an extra “thumb,” which is an enlarged bone for grabbing bamboo stems and tree branches.