Northern Ireland

'Missing' Belfast Zoo red panda found safe and well

An endangered red panda sparked a search after it went missing from Belfast Zoo on Sunday
An endangered red panda sparked a search after it went missing from Belfast Zoo on Sunday

A RARE red panda which sparked a search after it went missing from Belfast Zoo has been found safe and well.

Appeals went out for help in locating the endangered animal which police said went missing yesterday.

While the red panda is not aggressive, police urged people not to approach or attempt to capture the animal fearing it could become defensive if cornered.

Police said they believed it was somewhere near the zoo and "taking in the sights of beautiful Glengormley".

Residents living nearby helped Belfast Zoo staff locate the animal. Before noon today Belfast City Council reported that the panda had been found.

“It is safe and well and has been returned to the zoo," a spokesperson said.

“The red panda had been reported missing from Belfast Zoo yesterday afternoon with a sighting first reported around 5.30pm. Belfast Zoo immediately began a search for the animal which continued today.

“Local residents had been asked to report any sightings immediately to Belfast Zoo and we are grateful to members of the public who assisted with the search.”

Belfast Zoo also tweeted its thanks to those who had helped in tracking it down.

Two panda cubs were born at the zoo in June last year but only started to venture outside towards the end of 2018. The twins were born as a result of a breeding programme.

Their parents met after dad Chris was brought from Beekse Bergen Safari Park in the Netherlands and mum Vixen came from Germany's Dresden Zoo.

It is not yet know which panda escaped.

Red pandas are mainly active from dusk to dawn and often sleep in high trees during the day.

They have a distinctive red fur and long bushy tail, and are slightly larger than a domestic cat.

They feed mainly on bamboo but also fruit, eggs, small birds and insects.

Belfast Zoo is home to four red pandas.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the red panda is facing a very high risk of extinction.