For this red panda cub the first two months at Taronga Zoo have already been quite eventful.
Maiya is currently in full-time veterinary care after getting a neck injury from being carried around by the scruff of her neck—a common parenting practice for red pandas (Ailurus fulgens).
Taronga’s senior carnivore keeper Tamara Gillies says the cub got a neck wound because something, possibly mum’s saliva, got into the skin folds. Thankfully Maiya is now making a full recovery thanks to round-the-clock veterinary care and a cuddly plush surrogate mum.
“The soft toy gives her something with a familiar scent to snuggle and play with,” explains Gillies. “It’s the same colour as a real red panda and she clings to it using her claws and teeth as she would do with her mum.”
Maiya (her name means ‘little girl’ in Nepali) was born on 20 November and spent the first five weeks with mum Amala before the keepers at Taronga had to make a tricky decision to intervene due to the neck injury.
See Maiya posing for photos and cuddling with her plush toy mum
in this video courtesy Taronga Zoo.
“It was a hard choice as we’d always prefer for a cub to be raised by its mother,” says Gillies.
Thankfully the separation went smoothly—staff have been keeping a close eye on first-time parent Amala who has remained calm despite Maiya’s temporary removal. Meanwhile the cub’s neck is almost completely healed and keepers are already taking steps to gradually reintroduce her to the parents.
After another month in Tamara’s care, Maiya will be happily reunited with her family.
Red pandas, also known as lesser pandas, are an endangered species native to southwestern China and the Himalayas. Despite the name, they are not closely related to the iconic giant panda, although the two species do share a habitat range. Taronga Zoo has been successfully breeding red pandas since 1977.
All images and video courtesy Paul Fahy, Taronga Zoo.