Rare red pandas get home renovation

The Holtzman Wildlife Foundation made a large donation to make the Detroit Zoo a better place for red pandas.


Emily Klee, Guest Reporter

A staple of Michigan for 90 years, the Detroit Zoo has been ever expanding and striving towards making their zoo a memorable experience for visitors, and a happy one for animals, especially for the rare and endangered Red Panda.

They have pushed for this goal once again with their expansion of their red panda forest, the new habitat being opened up to over 14,000 square feet. New additions have been added for the enjoyment of guests as well as the care of the animals: a rope bridge over the exhibit, a natural stream and waterfall, as well as an indoor area with heat and nest boxes.

One of the most noticeable expansions is the rope bridge, swaying and stretching across the left-end of the exhibit.

“The bridge was both terrifying and awesome,” senior Aubrey Stellman said. “When people jumped on it, I honestly feared for my life, but when I caught a break in the waves of people, it was actually pretty nice.”

The Holtzman Wildlife Foundation made a donation of $500,000 towards this project.

“The experience on the bridge was a little scary,” Beth of Clinton Township said, “but fun!”

Red pandas have always been a much more difficult animal to view at the zoo, the difficulties being their small size and the animals often hiding in trees, though with the new expansion and current weather, it is prime viewing time for these fuzzy little beasts.

“We came to the zoo specifically to see this exhibit.” Lizzie of Berkley said, “The bridge was a little scary.”

The Detroit Zoo has also been known for just how educational their habitats are. Alongside the red panda exhibit, displays show descriptions and visual appearances of each of the three red pandas, and another shows off a replica skull of the animals to show similarities between other related animals.

With no leaves to truly hide them as well as the rope bridge cutting straight through their exhibit, they are more easy to view than ever, making this a visual treat for visitors of the zoo.

While the two prominent red pandas Ash and Ravi, respectively one and two years old, are somewhat younger and newer to the Detroit Zoo. Ta-Shi is 13 years old and has contributed to the zoo’s conservation program before, giving birth to a single cub named Tofu when she was ten years old.

The red panda has been on and off the endangered species list due to

deforestation and habitat fragmentation, poaching, and a phenomena described as “inbreeding depression” due to their shrinking populations.

Many including the aforementioned Holtzman Wildlife Foundation, the Detroit Zoo’s “Detroit Zoological Society”, as well as the Red Panda Network have been working tirelessly to push for conservation efforts in hopes this rare mammal can be brought back from the brink of vulnerability.