OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three's a charm as the Oklahoma City Zoo celebrates the birth of three red panda cubs.
Born on June 25 to mom "Celeste" and dad "Yoda," the cubs, two males and one female, are now discovering their outdoor habitat by Zoo Lake.
This is the third set of cubs for both parents and a rare occurrence of a triple birth – usually red pandas only give birth to two cubs at a time. The cubs mark the eighth, ninth and tenth red panda births to occur at the Zoo, with the most recent cub births in June of 2010. The 2010 cubs, a male a female, moved to other Zoos in 2010. The male went to the Central Park Zoo in New York and the female to the Indianapolis Zoo.
The birth of the cubs is a great success for the red panda Species Survival Plan, or SSP. The program was developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is a cooperative effort among AZA accredited zoos throughout North America created to help promote genetic diversity through this species management program.
"We are very excited to have three new red panda cubs since they are an endangered species," said Darcy Henthorn, Curator of Antelopes, Birds & Children's Zoo. "These cubs represent our efforts to successfully breed this beautiful species."
The cubs weighed less than one pound at birth, entering the world fully-furred and a grayish color, blind and totally dependent on their mother. They attain their famous fiery coat at about 90 days, will wean from their mother at about five months and will stay with their mother until they are around a year old. They weighed approximately 1-2 pounds each at their most recent health check.
The species is listed as endangered as their habitats shrink from deforestation. The red panda's home is in remote areas of the Himalayan Mountains in southern Tibet and southern China is being threatened by agriculture and cattle grazing, and competition from local livestock for resources.
The Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with buildings closing at 4:45 p.m.