Virginia Zoo welcomes new red panda, Masu

Masu the red panda (Photo: The Virginia Zoo)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Zoo has welcomed a new female red panda.

Masu, the juvenile red panda, comes from the Denver Zoo, where she was born last June.

The zoo said they have not forgotten Sunny, the red panda who went missing from her exhibit in the Asia – Trail of the Tiger part of the zoo in January.  Calls to the zoos’ red panda hotline (757-777-7899) have not yielded any legitimate sightings of Sunny. Staff is still hopeful she will return.

Photos: The Search for Sunny the Red Panda

The zoo says Masu was moved to the Virginia Zoo under the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The program manages populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals.

While Masu gets familiar with her new home, Timur — another red panda — will be temporarily moved to an off-exhibit holding area. Zoo keepers don’t expect Masu to take more than seven to 10 days to get acclimated. Once she is comfortable, Timur will be reintroduced to her habitat.

Timur, a male, came to the Virginia Zoo from Front Royal, the Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute, and is two-years-old.

The zoo says “necessary adjustments” have been made to the habitat’s landscape to “ensure the safety of the animals.” The habitat includes two denning boxes and climbing furniture to provide panda-friendly paths for exploration. Both red panda exhibits at the Zoo have passed inspection of the United States Department of Agriculture and meet all AZA regulations.

Sunny’s mate, Thomas, remains in the exhibit. The zoo says SSP is not expected to determine whether he will receive another mate until after this summer.