Belfast Zoo celebrates birth of endangered twin female red panda cubs
BELFAST Zoo is celebrating the arrival of twin endangered red panda cubs.
The two girls were born in June but have just recently started to venture outside their den.
Red panda are feared to be at risk of extinction due to habitat loss and illegal hunting for their fur.
The cubs, which have yet to be named, were born to parents Chris and Vixen.
Chris arrived at Belfast Zoo from Beekse Bergen Safari Park in the Netherlands in 2013.
Vixen, a female, arrived from Dresden Zoo in April 2017 as part of the collaborative breeding programme.
The pair hit it off straight away and after a gestation period of around 135 days, Vixen gave birth to twin female cubs on June 19.
Also known as 'firefox', red panda spend most of their time in trees as their sharp claws make them agile climbers. They also use their long, striped tails for balance.
Julie Mansell, zoo curator, said: "Red panda cubs are born blind and develop quite slowly.
"They therefore spend the first few months in the den. It is for this reason that, despite being born back in June, the twins have only recently started to venture outside.
"Over the last few weeks the twins have become more adventurous and visitors will hopefully get the chance to spot our colourful little arrivals as they start exploring their habitat."
Alyn Cairns, zoo manager, said Red panda numbers are "declining dramatically due to habitat loss and illegal hunting for their fur, in particular their long bushy tail which is highly prized as a good luck charm for Chinese newlyweds".
"The International Union for the Conservation of Nature believes that the red panda is facing a very high risk of extinction and they are listed as the 20th most globally threatened species by the Edge of Existence Programme," he said.