Zoo officials report that Scarlet, below, has been exploring her habitat — climbing trees and eating bamboo leaves — with her mother, Ash, above, at the Detroit Zoo.

Zoo officials report that Scarlet, below, has been exploring her habitat — climbing trees and eating bamboo leaves — with her mother, Ash, above, at the Detroit Zoo.

Photos provided by the Detroit Zoo


Baby red panda makes debut at Detroit Zoo

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 4, 2020

 Scarlet, a female red panda born July 1, recently moved to a public area of the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest at the Detroit Zoo.

Scarlet, a female red panda born July 1, recently moved to a public area of the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest at the Detroit Zoo.

 Scarlet, top, and her mother, Ash, below, huddle together in the crook of a tree at the Detroit Zoo.

Scarlet, top, and her mother, Ash, below, huddle together in the crook of a tree at the Detroit Zoo.

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ROYAL OAK — Scarlet, the 25th red panda born at the Detroit Zoo since 1999, recently made her first public appearance after her birth in the early morning hours of July 1.

The cub has stayed close to her mother, Ash, 5, moving from her nesting box to a private area of the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest, and now to a public portion of the habitat where she can hone skills essential to survival.

“It’s really exciting to see Scarlet learn from Ash how to be a red panda. This involves a lot of dramatic tree climbing maneuvers,” Detroit Zoological Society Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter said in a prepared statement. “Ash is doing so well with Scarlet; she is very attentive and always waits for her to follow.”

Ash and Scarlet share the habitat with Scarlet’s father, Ravi, 4. Keti, Scarlet’s sister, was born July 6, 2019, and currently lives with Ta-Shi, her 14-year-old adoptive grandmother, in a habitat on the back side of the bear den. They will eventually join the other red pandas in their habitat. Zoo staff stepped in to hand-rear Keti to help first-time, inexperienced mom Ash.

Initially after Scarlet’s birth, the Detroit Zoological Society opted to keep her in an indoor holding area due to the increased number of red foxes and other native wildlife, such as raccoons, opossums and skunks, in the zoo that could communicate diseases to zoo animals — or worse. In 2008, a red fox killed four Chilean flamingos in minutes.

Betsie Meister, Detroit Zoological Society associate curator of mammals, said Scarlet has been “doing wonderfully” and exploring her new habitat.

“With Ash, Scarlet learned to munch on bamboo leaves and also how to climb and navigate branches and trees,” Meister wrote in an email to C & G Newspapers. “We gave Ash and Scarlet access to the habitat when we felt confident Scarlet was able to climb up and down tree branches on her own without her mom’s assistance.”

As of now, she said, the zoo does not have an Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan breeding recommendation for Scarlet.

“Scarlet is a cute ball of red, white and black fur and a great addition to the Red Panda Forest. She keeps Ash on her toes while she climbs to the tallest of the branches,” Meister wrote. “Scarlet climbed up about 30 feet into one of the trees and Ash followed her right up to the top to make sure she was safe. Mom and daughter will also cuddle together when sleeping and all you see is a pile of fur, not knowing who is who.”

Red pandas enjoy colder climates and are native to the Himalayas in Nepal and northern China, according to the zoo. The red pandas at the zoo eat mostly bamboo, which the zoo grows in its greenhouse, as well as fresh and dried fruit, specially formulated red panda biscuits, and the occasional bird they catch.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists red pandas as endangered — less than 10,000 red pandas are estimated to remain in the wild, and their population is decreasing due to habitat loss, poaching and the illegal pet trade.

The Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest includes more than 14,000 square feet of trees and grass, with a flowing stream, waterfall, an arboreal pathway through the habitat, and a pedestrian canopy walkway.

The Detroit Zoo is located at 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, west of Woodward Avenue.

For more information, call (248) 541-5717 or visit detroitzoo.org.

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