VIDEO: Meet Sakura, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s newest red panda

Sakura and Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo's Red Pandas, meet in their enclosure. (Cody Gampe/Special to The Star)
Sakura, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s newest Red Panda. (Cody Gampe/Special to The Star)Sakura, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s newest Red Panda. (Cody Gampe/Special to The Star)
Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)Arun, Greater Vancouver Zoo’s resident Red Panda, has a girlfriend. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Sakura, Greater Vancouver Zoo's newest Red Panda. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)

Male red panda, Arun has a new friend with the arrival of Sakura at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

They are both part of the species survival plan, a conservation breeding program around the world that uses facilities like the Greater Vancouver Zoo to begin the process of re-establishing endangered animals back into the wild.

Menita Prasad, animal care manager, said the Aldergrove-based zoo acquired Sakura in early March from the Calgary Zoo, where she resided for the past six years.

“Arun and Sakura turned out to be a genetic match for breeding and we were successfully able to introduce her last week to the enclosure,” Prasad explained. “Unfortunately, we just missed the breeding window, which is January and February for red pandas, who are only fertile for about one to three days in that time.”

Prasad is hopeful, noting the shy but curious Sakura has given birth in the past, adding that zoo hopes that the pair do successfully mate in 2022.

In the meantime, Sakura, a Japanese word meaning cherry blossom, has an extension of her own that has been added on to Arun’s enclosure so she can get used to her surroundings.

Red pandas are a decreasing endangered species, native to the eastern Himalayas in Nepal, Bhutan, and China.

They live to be roughly 12 years old, and according to the World Wildlife Foundation, there are fewer than 10,000 left on the planet.

It’s been a busy month for the zoo, which is currently undergoing construction that will see a brand new entrance and ticketing booth completed this spring.

Prasad said that the zoo additionally joined World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), a global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

“There are only seven other institutions in Canada with this accreditation,” Prasad noted, adding that the process has taken a little under a year to achieve.

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Since 1935, the goal of the WAZA has been to guide, encourage and support the zoos, aquariums, and like‑minded organizations of the world in animal care and welfare, environmental education and global conservation.

The membership consists of nearly 400 leading institutions and organizations around the world, and this number continues to grow.

“This brings together biologists, universities, and conservationists so we can contribute more globally with out conservation efforts and provide the highest standard of animal welfare,” Prasad said. “It also puts the Fraser Valley onto a more international stage.”

More information on WAZA and what’s happening at the zoo can be found at gvzoo.com.


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