Bandit, Henry Vilas Zoo’s new red panda, makes public debut

MADISON, Wis. — Bandit, the Henry Vilas Zoo’s new red panda, made his public debut Thursday.

The energetic two-year-old red panda spent Thursday getting used to his new surroundings. Eager visitors, including one with a red panda stuffed animal, watched as he ate berries fed to him by zoo manager Laura Weiner.

READ MORE: Stealing hearts: New red panda named Bandit to make debut at Henry Vilas Zoo

The process to bring him to the zoo began months ago, she said. After getting a recommendation from the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, it was determined Bandit was a good match to join Tai, the zoo’s current female red panda.

Zoo staff from Madison picked him up from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and drove him to Wisconsin. After he arrived, he spent a month in quarantine before being introduced to the public.

“We’re really excited to have Bandit here. He’s a really active young guy; hopefully he’ll make a good habitat mate for Tai,” Weiner said.

So far, Tai is “not too excited” about her new companion yet, “but I think that’s how everyone is when you first meet someone new,” Weiner said with a laugh.

The new addition comes nearly seven months after red panda Tarrei died in December at age 19.

Red pandas are considered endangered, with fewer than 2,500 estimated to live in the wild, according to the zoo.

Bandit and Tai will live in the Children’s Zoo area.