It’s always exciting when a new baby is born, but at the Detroit Zoo, it’s not the human babies that the staff get excited about.
In June, the Detroit Zoo welcomed its newest member: a baby red panda named Tofu. Tofu’s mother is Ta-Shi, a veteran at the Detroit Zoo, and this past weekend, the mother-daughter pair made their public debut. “Ta-Shi took her time bringing her adorable baby girl out into public view, but it was worth the wait,” said Scott Carter, the Detroit Zoo’s chief life sciences officer.
There’s no denying that Tofu is a ridiculously adorable little guy. Even full-grown red pandas are something to squee over, but this little tyke just frolics and rolls around with all the joy of any toddler.
One reason the news of Tofu’s birth is so exciting is because red panda populations are dangerously threatened in the wild, with estimated numbers at less than 10,000. This is due largely to habitat loss, which is why today many zoos have breeding programs to try to build up the numbers of the adorable creatures. But even this presents a problem.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Freeman of the George Mason University:
“One of the problems in maintaining populations is reproduction in captivity. Only about half of the young survive, and researchers say that is probably because mothers do not provide enough milk or care for the young properly. No one knows whether similar problems exist in the wild.”
Hopefully little Tofu’s birth is just one step in a process that will help bring these beautiful creatures back to a healthy existence in the wild!
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