Chief Executive’s Blog

July 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

This week I wanted to tell you about developments taking place with some of the carnivore young born this summer at the Park.

Last month on 15 June our red pandas at Highland Wildlife Park gave birth to twins. Now almost six weeks old, we picked one of the very few wet days we have had to see if allowing visitors’ access back into the viewing area for the red panda would be disruptive to the adults and their young.

Red panda cub by Alex Riddell

Red panda cub by Alex Riddell

These twins are the second successful red panda birth to mother Kitty. Last summer Kitty reared a single male cub named Kush, who was recently sent to Curraghs Wildlife Park on the Isle of Man as their new breeding male. Kush was the first red panda to be born in the Society’s animal collections in 13 years. It is unusual for red pandas to produce cubs on consecutive years, so this is a very strong indication that our enclosure, diet and husbandry regime is perfect for our animals.

Douglas Richardson and his team choose a wet day on purpose in the hope that there would be fewer visitors and so it would make it easier for us to monitor and close the area again if needed, but oblivious would be one way of describing the animals’ reaction to the reappearance of visitors. With carnivores, and indeed many other animal groups, keeping disruption down to a minimum and privacy at a maximum can be essential when raising young.

Red panda cub by Alex Riddell

Red panda cub by Alex Riddell

The kits are still not visible to the visitors unless mum is transferring them to one of the other nest boxes, which is normal behaviour for the species, but at least the adults can be more readily viewed again. The cubs should shortly be sexed and named, and will soon start to be more visible to our visitors.

We have tried a similar approach with the northern lynx as the female is currently rearing her third set of twins; she normally has them in the bushes at the front of the exhibit, so the Park always ropes this area off. A short while ago she moved them into the shed at the side of the enclosure and then to the secluded area at the rear, near the Pallas’s cat exhibit.  She seemed pretty calm and the kittens were just starting to show themselves and our excellent animal team removed the temporary barrier. Like the red pandas, no obvious changes in behaviour other than the two kittens becoming more and more visible were seen. Then, the other day, the team were delighted to see all five lynx (dad, mum, big sister from last year and the new twins) come down to the front when the keepers were putting the food in – a very exciting development!

Sometimes a much more cautious approach is needed though, in particular with our adult female Pallas’s cat and her six kittens in their special off-exhibit facility. This is only one of three or four captive litters born globally this year and ours is the largest. The species’ vulnerability to toxoplasmosis is at the heart of our carefully planned husbandry protocol, and although we are not quite out of the woods yet, it certainly is looking very good.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world 

~ John Muir


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