Lehner Family Foundation Wild Asia is coming, and many guests wait in eager anticipation to meet our red panda triplets, Coco, Lulu and Penny. Even before they have the opportunity to steal the spotlight at our Wild Asia Grand Opening, they have stolen our hearts with their adorable antics in the Akron Zoo’s web series, Panda Palace, which follows the lives of these three playful sisters. These sisters make up the largest group of red pandas to ever call the Akron Zoo home, and with the increased number of animals, we have also ensured increased space.
“The new building provides much more room for our animals,” says Lisa Melnik, lead red panda keeper. “The indoor area has multiple levels for the girls to climb, and the outdoor habitat offers space to climb, run, play, and even rest in an air-conditioned cave. There is also a larger area for keepers, allowing us to prepare diets and enrichment in the building instead of having to do that elsewhere.”
The three red panda sisters were born July 11, 2019 at the Kansas City Zoo in Missouri. When the triplets were born, the Kansas City Zoo allowed local elementary schools to compete in a fundraising contest to choose their names. The top three schools each got to name a cub, and funds were donated to the Red Panda Network which benefits red pandas in their native habitat.
“Lulu (short for Louise) is the boldest of the three,” says Melnik. “She is very sweet and outgoing, but she can be a bit of a troublemaker. Penny and Coco are more cautious and take some time to get comfortable with new places, items and people. Overall, the girls are all very picky eaters, which seems to be something they learned from their mom, although Coco enjoys the red biscuits in her diet, Penny especially likes craisins, and Lulu loves red grapes.”
According to their care team, the three are very playful and will tumble around with each other, making fake anger faces. They arrived in late September of 2020 and have been acclimating well to their new habitat.
Red pandas are native to the eastern Himalayas - primarily India, Nepal, Bhutan and China. They can be identified by their unique red fur, which helps them to blend in with the clumps of reddish-brown moss and white lichens in the tree canopy. Sadly, red pandas face serious endangerment and the population has declined by as much as 50% over the last three generations thanks to pelt hunting, agricultural encroachment and climate change. It is our hope that as part of the Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP), the Akron Zoo will continue to provide a safe home for this critically endangered species.
Be sure to visit your Akron Zoo for the Grand Opening of Wild Asia on May 29 to meet these sweet girls. You can also become a member of the Akron Zoo to see all of Wild Asia on May 28 and get a sneak peek of these “wild” new habitats. We hope to see you soon!