Red pandas, Somali wild asses, grizzly bears coming to zoo

Zoo asks for community support on Giving Tuesday
Red pandas, Somali wild asses, grizzly bears coming to zoo

A pair of red pandas, two Somali wild asses and grizzly bear sisters will join the Henry Vilas Zoo in 2015.

The two new red pandas will be paired with the zoo’s current two red pandas. Zoo officials said red pandas are one of the zoo’s most popular species. The male red panda, Lum, is past breeding age and being retired. A new male of breeding age will pair with the zoo’s breeding-aged female, Tai. The zoo also will receive a female to be Lum’s retirement companion.

Zoo officials said there are fewer than 600 Somali wild asses in the wild and fewer than 60 in captivity in North America. It is one of the rarest wild relatives of the horse. Its main threats in the wild are hunting for use as food or in medicine, and competition with livestock for food and water.

The grizzly bear sisters were saved after their mother and grandmother became a threat to humans and livestock in Montana. They will be part of the zoo’s Arctic Passage exhibit home in 2015. The new Arctic Passage exhibit was designed to accommodate rescued grizzlies because human-grizzly conflicts are becoming increasingly common.

The zoo is trying to drum up financial support for Giving Tuesday.

“Each of these sets of animals represent an important part of the zoo’s contribution to conservation efforts around the world, in addition to enhancing the experience of our zoo guests,” said County Executive Joe Parisi. “Henry Vilas Zoo has always been a community-supported zoo and we encourage the community to actively support the zoo tomorrow during this year’s Giving Tuesday.”

Last year on Giving Tuesday, the Friends of the Zoo raised more than $10,000, which was enough for the zoo to bring Pelo, a young male lion, to the zoo to join the lioness, Shakura. This year, the Friends’ Giving Tuesday goal is to raise $10,000 to support bringing the three new sets of animals to the zoo.