With fingers-crossed, zookeepers are still counting the days, hoping two red pandas born at the Valley Zoo last month will survive their first few critical weeks of life.
Born on June 26, the births are rare for an endangered species that only has 40 red pandas living in captivity. If they survive, they’ll become part of an international breeding program meant to repopulate the species.
Caregiver Sandy Helliker has been by their side since the two pandas were born, feeding them every three hours and keeping their home at a constant temperature between rotations of air fans and hot-water bottles.
“They’re doing well right now so I’m just hoping that everything continues to go this well,” she said.
“One’s a little bit bigger than the other one but they’ve both been regularly gaining a little bit of weight every day.”
Early on, the pair were fed with feeding tubes into their stomachs to prevent them from sucking milk into their lungs. They’re now fed from a bottle and expected to open their eyes for the first time in the next few days.
Their first 30 days of life are considered the most critical while their parents, Koko and Lala, have bred two previous litters before. Both litters didn’t survive — in part due to Lala’s incessant grooming. This pair was separated from their parents because of that and will be hand-fed for several months.