They have names.
The two young twin red pandas at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove have officially been named as of 10 a.m. Friday.
After a month-long contest, a team of judges sifted through tens of thousands of entries to pick names for the male and female red pandas born into captivity at the zoo last summer.
The girl has been named Mei Mei, and the boy’s name is Maple, announced Menita Prasad, the deputy general manager and director of animal care.
“ We are thrilled to see the overwhelming response we have received in helping us name B.C.’s first born red panda cubs,” she said.
“Our hope was to engage the public in increasing awareness for this incredibly unique and endangered species and we did not anticipate such a huge response. The largest response we have experienced with a naming contest to date,” Prasad explained.
Zoo staff had, what she called, the “harrowing task” of compiling all the entries and narrowed them down to a more comprehensive list for the judges.
After much deliberation, Prasad, and guest judges Harold Munro, a Vancouver newspaper chief editor, and a radio host, Vanessa, finally came to a unanimous decision.
“We want to thank everyone who participated, liked, shared, and commented on this story and for helping to spread awareness for this critically endangered species,” Prasad said.
“We are overjoyed that wherever these cubs end up, wherever they may go on their conservation journey, they will forever have a piece of home with them.”
Red pandas are an endangered species, as population trends are decreasing in the wild. Major threats include habitat loss and fragmentation, habitat degradation, and physical threats such as increasing human population, climate change, natural disasters, and inadequate enforcement of laws, Prasad elaborated.
These twins were born to Sakura, a red panda who came to Aldergrove in March 2021, after six years at the Calgary Zoo. She joined the long-time resident red panda, Arun, in the zoo’s conservation breeding program.
These two relative newbies are the only red panda cubs born in B.C.
Red pandas are unique as they are in a family of their own (Ailuridae), classified under the superfamily Musteloidea, therefore, most closely related to raccoons and badgers.
In the wild, red pandas live in the foothills of the Himalaya mountains in China, India and Nepal. Their natural environment is damp and temperate. Prasad described it as remarkably similar to that of the B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
“Our red pandas are part of a breeding program called Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that matches pandas in captivity to breed and produce genetically strong and healthy offspring, thereby strengthening captive populations that would be suitable candidates to repopulate the wild if need be.”
The contest started back in mid-February, and invited people to suggest names for each.
The winners will each receive an exclusive grand prize pack, which includes a membership, Grizzly gifts prize pack, and an exclusive behind the scenes meet and greet with the entire red panda family.
To learn more about the Greater Vancouver Zoo, people can visit the website at: gvzoo.com, or visit the zoo in person.
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