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Officials announce birth of 2 male Red Panda cubs at the Seneca Park Zoo

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Officials have announced that the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester recently saw the birth of two male Red Panda cubs.

The birth, from the zoo’s 4-year-old panda, Starlight, happened on June 20 and was just announced on Saturday. It is the first Red Panda birthing in the 128 years of the Seneca Park Zoo.

“The birth of the two Red Panda cubs is exciting for the Seneca Park Zoo and our community, and is encouraging news for ensuring the sustainability of red panda populations,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

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Starlight came to the Seneca Park Zoo in 2018 from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and her mate, Willie, 6, arrived in 2020 by way of the Knoxville Zoo. Both animals are first-time parents.

Lead Red Panda Keeper Heidi Beifus said, “Even as a first-time mom, Starlight has taken perfect care of her two cubs. We ae confident they are in good hands as they grow.”  The cubs will remain in their nest box - out of public viewing - until they are two or three months old. At the current trajectory, the red panda cubs will not be available for public viewing for at least another month.

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“This successful birth is the result of careful planning and preparation. Our Red Pandas play an important role as ambassador for their wild counterparts, and we look forward to them helping our community foster a connection to red pandas in the wild,” said Dr. Louis DiVincenti, Assistant Zoo Director.

According to Monroe County officials, the pairing was recommended by Red Panda Species Survival Plan, which ensures the conservation of red pandas across zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Native to southwestern China and the eastern Himalayas, red pandas are threatened by habitat loss and poaching throughout their natural range. 

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.