Bristol Zoo Project HomeBristol Zoo Project Home

How our red panda settled in: A close look at adapting to a new habitat

Posted on: 16 May, 2024

Endangered red panda, Nilo, has now been at Bristol Zoo Project for over six weeks and continues to steal the hearts of visitors and staff, but just how well has he settled into his new habitat?

As you can imagine, arriving at a new zoo can be a big change for an animal, with a new territory full of different smells, sights, sounds and people. To help us understand how Nilo has settled in, Bristol Zoological Society’s Animal Behaviour and Welfare Team set out to record Nilo’s behaviour in his new habitat.

Over the course of two weeks, our team monitored his behaviours by using ZooMonitor, a behaviour recording software provided by Lincoln Park Zoo in the US. We collected data that would prove to be crucial in our research to better his experience and overall welfare. Using ZooMonitor’s heat map tool, we were able to pull together data that showed trends of his whereabouts and activities at certain times of the day, informing us if these were in line with red pandas living in the wild.

Native to the Himalayan Mountain range, red pandas are under threat from habitat loss and poaching. It is believed their population has declined by 40% over the last 50 years and there are thought to be only 2,500 left in the wild. Nilo plays a vital role in the future of the species as part of a crucial European breeding programme.

Using our heat map software, we’ve been able to identify which parts of his habitat Nilo uses the most, and as expected from an arboreal animal, he spends most of his time up in his trees.

During his first couple of days, Nilo spent a large amount of time sitting at the top of his densely leafed conifer tree while he checked out his surroundings in safety. However, as time went on and his confidence grew in his new habitat, he began to spend more and more time sleeping and resting out in his beautiful big cedar tree, except in the heavy rain of course!

Another way we were able to examine if Nilo was comfortable in his new habitat was by comparing his waking periods to wild red pandas, which are nocturnal or crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk. Nilo has been showing positive crepuscular waking periods indicating he is not being disrupted during the day and has settled in well. We are unsure how this will change as the seasons progress, but currently the best times of day to see Nilo up and about are earlier in the day, before 11am, or after 2pm – so if you haven’t visited him yet, those are the best times to do so!

In conclusion, we are delighted to say that Nilo appears to have adapted well to his new environment and is now utilising a majority of his new habitat. We believe he may not enjoy heavy rain so much and often seeks refuge from the elements, but we are pleased to see that both large trees in his home are regularly utilised for climbing and rest spaces.

Nilo’s purpose-built habitat, tailor-made to his specific needs, is located near our Walled Garden and Barefoot Trail and is not to be missed on your next visit!

Want to help us save wildlife?

Become a member today for a year of wild adventure, and help protect the animals and habitats you love by supporting our conservation charity.