Last December, Smithsonian Channel's Wild Inside series introduced 6-month-old red panda cubs Henry and Tink to the world. Born in summer 2014, the cubs were in critical condition and required round-the-clock care. Thanks to animal care staff, including keepers Jessica Kordell and Ken Lang, the cubs are healthy and thriving! In the latest keeper Q & A, they answer some burning questions about the cubs' progress and look ahead to their future.
Want red pandas to return to the National Zoo? Join fellow red panda fans and make a gift towards the Red Panda Retreat—a much needed facility for red pandas on Asia Trail. The temperature-controlled indoor retreat will be complete with branches for climbing and multi-level platforms for playing and sleeping. On behalf of the animals we care for: thank you!
Personality-wise, how are Henry and Tink different?
Both cubs are full of personality! Henry is a fun-loving guy who looks for any opportunity to play, climb, and rough house. We've been hand-raising him practically since birth, so he is exuberant every time he sees us. Tink is also very friendly, but she's a bit more cautious when it comes to interacting with us. But she seems to enjoy having Henry as a companion.
Do they have a favorite toy?
Both Henry and Tink seem to enjoy playing with boomer balls. Of course, the most entertaining enrichment is the kind that they provide to each other (i.e. social interaction). They climb, run around, and wrestle a lot with each other.
What progress are they making?
The cubs are now fed twice a day (originally, we fed them every two hours!). Milk is no longer a part of their diet, and they're now eating solid foods like bamboo, apple biscuits, bananas, grapes, and other fruit daily.
In the coming months, we'll be watching for steady weight increases. That will tell us they are getting the right nutritional balance. We're happy to say that Henry now weighs 7.5 pounds and Tink weighs 6 pounds.
What's most rewarding about caring for these cubs?
It's a joy to see these cubs grow and thrive every day, especially considering they came to us in critical condition.