Calgary Zoo welcomes red panda cub

There is a new resident at the Calgary Zoo: a female red panda born June 4.
This female red panda was born on June 4 at the Calgary Zoo. ((Calgary Zoo))

There is a new resident at the Calgary Zoo: a female red panda born June 4.

"The cub is doing very well, and we can tell by her weight gain and the size of her tummy that she is being well fed and cared for," zookeeper Ingrid Goemans said in a statement Friday. The cub hasn't been named yet, she said.

Goemans said zoo staff are watching the cub's five-year-old mother, Malikha, carefully and are keeping veterinary checks as brief as possible to avoid distressing either mom or baby. The public won't be able to see the panda cub until the end of the summer.

"Once again Malikha is being a very good mother, and while she tolerates me briefly taking the cub for health checks, she grooms her and looks her over as soon as I return her to the nest box," Goemans said.

Malikha had her first cub — also a female — two years ago. That cub was transferred to the Toronto Zoo at about 15 months old. The animals reach maturity at about 18 months of age.

Every time a red panda is born, and particularly every time the cub is raised by its mother, it's an important achievement, Goemans said, because the mortality rate for red panda cubs is as high as 74 per cent.

Since 1994, nine red cub pandas have been born at the Calgary Zoo.

"It is important to continue to support conservation and protection of red pandas so that some day we see a natural increase in their populations," said Tim Sinclair-Smith, curator of the zoo's Eurasia section.

"There is still a long way to go to this end, but this new birth will have a positive impact on captive population growth and genetic diversity of the species."

It's estimated there are fewer than 10,000 mature red pandas in the world. They're classified as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.