Red Panda Cubs Have Emerged From Their Den For The First Time At Chester Zoo
Chester Zoo became the lucky home to not one but two adorable red panda cubs in June and now the endangered twins have been spotted emerging from their den for the first time.
After staying tucked up in nest boxes for several months with mum Nima and dad Koda, Huo Hu, meaning 'Firefox', and Tiang Tang, meaning 'Heaven', have now been photographed exploring their outside habitat at the zoo.
Red pandas are found in the mountainous regions of Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and southern China where their wild population is estimated at fewer than 10,000 - a 40 percent decline over the past 50 years.
This decrease is a direct result of human actions, such as widespread habitat destruction, trapping for the illegal pet trade and poaching for their red fur.
In recent years, Chester Zoo has been fighting for the future of the red panda, which is also known as the 'fire fox', through habitat-focused conservation projects in the Sichuan Mountains of China, where they can be found among the bamboo forests.
Chester Zoo conservationists are part of a Europe-wide breeding programme for the species, aimed at boosting numbers for the species.
Andrew Mckenzie, Deputy Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said: "Red pandas are the most incredible, beautiful species, but they're under serious threat in the wild from human activity.
"Widespread habitat destruction, trapping for the illegal pet trade and poaching for fur have led to a rapidly decreasing population.
Adding: "A world without red pandas is simply unthinkable, so the European breeding programme for the species is increasingly important. That's what makes these new arrivals even more special to us.
"Thankfully, our little male Huo Hu and his sister Tiang Tang are thriving. After snuggling up in their nest boxes over summer, they're now looking big and strong. They're ready to explore!"
Conservationists at the Zoo have recently called on people's help to fight the illegal wildlife trade.
Members of the public can report any suspicious activity they may spot, online or on holiday, via the zoo's online illegal wildlife trade reporting form here.
Featured Image Credit: Chester Zoo