The cutest faces in the animal world were welcomed back to Utah with a ribbon cutting, speeches by the zoo’s executive director and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, and an awful lot of happy zoo-goers.
The two red pandas, currently unnamed, kind of look like a cat-bear-raccoon-fox combo. Like their name suggests, they are beautiful redheads. Think Julianne Moore and Jessica Chastain. But, you know, fluffy.
Unlike their name suggests, they are not pandas. Scientists previously classified them as raccoons or bears. But after due consideration, they were put into their own group.
The zoo previously had a pair of red pandas which were transferred out of Utah nearly a decade ago to make room for the Rocky Shores exhibit. But after public outcry, realized they had made a mistake. Who knew they were so popular?
Since then, the zoo worked diligently to arrange the finances and team to bring another pair of the critters back.
It was a huge undertaking. With funds from the ZAP program, private donations, and a gift from the family of Janet Quinney Lawson, they were able to pull it off.
The exhibit features near 360-degree views for zoo-goers, rock and water formations, and a large plot of grass for the 4- and 7-year-old to run around on. The most impressive thing? The big tree stump in the middle of the exhibit is air conditioned. So if you’re at the zoo on a hot day and you can’t see them, check out the tree. These little prima donnas might be in their trailer.
Red pandas are endangered in the wild. Due to loss of habitat and the illegal pet trade, it’s estimated that there are less than 10,000 of them left in the wild. If you would like to make a donation to conservation efforts, click here. You can even enter for a chance to name the new kids on the block.
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