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17th Dec 2022

Pair of rare red panda cubs die at safari park after cold snap

Charlie Herbert

Red pandas die at Longleat safari park

Their mother had recently started the weaning process

Two rare red panda cubs bred at Longleat have died due to freezing temperatures.

Twins Tala and Sumi, who were born in early summer, were found dead in their nesting box at the Wiltshire safari park on Thursday morning.

It is thought they died from hypothermia, a spokesman for the park said.

They added that their mother had stopped providing supportive feeds, that this could therefore have also played a part.

The cubs were born to parents Emma and Lionel and were first seen by the public in September when they began to venture outside, the BBC reports.

Temperatures at Longleat are thought to have dipped to between -7C and -8C overnight into Thursday.

Red pandas are native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China, where temperatures can reach -15C.

Keepers at the safari park think the fact that their mother had started the weaning process and was no longer providing supportive feeds may have contributed to the cubs’ deaths.

A spokesman for the park said: “We’ve provided an increase in diet, shelter and bedding, however the cubs were mostly still dependant on their mum.”

The park also added that just one in five wild red pandas survive to adulthood.

Longleat said the twins had been “closely monitored and looked after by our dedicated team”.

The spokesman said: “We know so many of you have loved seeing these beautiful creatures for yourselves and will share our sadness in having to say goodbye to them.

“Thank you for your understanding at this time, especially for our keepers who formed such a special bond with them both.”

Red pandas are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with as few as 2,500 thought to be living in the wild.

Their main threats are habitat loss, deforestation and poaching.

Tala and Sumi were the seventh and eighth red pandas to have been born at Longleat. The park has an active Red Panda breeding program, with the first cub being born in 2015.

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