Virginia Zoo Welcomes Masu the Red Panda

This Sunday, a female Red panda was introduced to her new exhibit at the Virginia Zoo. Masu, the juvenile Red panda comes from the Denver Zoo where she was born last June. She was moved to the Virginia Zoo under the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which manages the population and genetic diversity among zoo animals. The transfer was confirmed last fall after SSP coordinators assessed the population of North American Red pandas and gave a breeding recommendation for Masu to be paired with Timur, a male at the Virginia Zoo.


While Masu becomes familiar with her new home in the Zoo’s original red panda exhibit, Timur will be temporarily moved to an off-exhibit holding area. Zoo Keepers do not expect the acclimation period to take more than seven to 10 days, and when Masu is comfortable Timur will be introduced to her in the habitat. The male came to the Virginia Zoo from Front Royal, the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute, and is two years old. Necessary adjustments to the habitat’s landscape have been made to ensure the safety of the animals. The habitat includes two denning boxes and ample climbing furniture to provide significant panda friendly paths for the animals to explore. Both Red panda exhibits at the Zoo have passed inspection of the United States Department of Agriculture and meet all AZA regulations.


The Virginia Zoo has not forgotten about Sunny, its missing Red panda. Sunny escaped from the Red panda exhibit in Asia – Trail of the Tiger in January 2017. Her mate, Thomas, still remains in the exhibit. Recommendations for him to receive another mate are not expected to be determined by the SSP until after this summer. Calls to the Zoos’ Red panda hotline have not resulted in any legitimate sightings of Sunny. Staff is still hopeful she will return.


Red pandas are tree-dwelling animals native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. They were the first panda discovered, about 40 years prior to giant pandas, although very different both species share the name. Slightly larger than a domestic cat and with markings similar to a raccoon, Red pandas have soft, dense reddish-brown and white fur. They feed mainly on bamboo, but also various plant shoots, leaves, fruit and insects. Red pandas are shy and solitary except when mating. Females give birth in the spring and summer, typically to one to three young.