Forced to leave the National Zoo because of the hubbub surrounding a certain black-and-white fuzzball, red pandas Rusty and Shama were relocated in June to the Smithsonian’s Virginia facility to propagate. The move was a success, as three red panda cubs—Clinger, Slash, and Shredder—were born to the couple. While Shama died unexpectedly in 2014, escape artist Rusty is still a resident of the Conservation Biology Institute with his seven-month-old cubs, and his D.C. habitat is empty. But the zoo will not be without red pandas forever.
The National Zoo has surpassed its $150,000 fundraising goal to build an indoor habitat for red pandas, according to spokeswoman Devin Murphy, and the appeal is still open. “The response we have received for the red panda retreat is very encouraging,” she says. “We are starting to investigate preliminary designs based on the resources we have.” The temperature-controlled habitat will feature “branches for climbing and multi-level platforms for playing and sleeping,” according to the fundraising page.
“After Zoo keepers, designers, and construction colleagues have settled on a design, we’ll have a better idea of when construction will start and when red pandas will return to the Zoo,” Murphy says. It may be months, she notes. In the meantime, the red pandas are “doing well” in Front Royal.
Photos by Janice Sveda/Smithsonian’s National Zoo