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Red pandas are back as Bristol Zoo Project celebrates the arrival of Nilo

Posted on: 21 March, 2024

A furry new resident at Bristol Zoo Project is signalling the highly anticipated return of a much-loved species.

Endangered red panda Nilo is settling in to his newly created habitat after arriving from ZSL’s Whipsnade.

He’s already been exploring his new territory, which has been tailor-made to the needs of red pandas, with a large cedar tree sitting at the centre, providing plenty of climbing opportunities.

As well as proving to be a hit with staff and visitors, three-year-old Nilo also has a vital role to play in the future of red pandas globally, as he is part of a crucial European breeding programme.

Red pandas are native to the Himalayan Mountain range through Nepal, India and China, where they are under threat from habitat loss and poaching. Researchers believe their population has declined by 40% over the last 50 years, and it’s thought there are only 2,500 left in the wild.

Bristol Zoo Project is owned and run by conservation and education charity Bristol Zoological Society, which is part of efforts to protect and conserve the Endangered species.

Will Walker, Curator of Mammals at Bristol Zoo Project, said: “We are very excited to have Nilo here with us at Bristol Zoo Project. He has settled in really well so far and has enjoyed exploring his new habitat. We are thrilled to bring the species back to Bristol and the South West for visitors to enjoy and observe.

“Red pandas are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. Their red or orange-brown coat, white markings on their face, and bushy tails with red and buff ring patterns, serve as a camouflage within their natural habitat amongst red moss and white lichen-covered trees. They also have what’s often described as an extra thumb, which is an enlarged, modified wrist bone which they put to good use to climb trees and grab bamboo stems.”

Nilo, whose name means blue in Nepalese, travelled 135 miles from ZSL’s Whipsnade Zoo to his brand-new habitat. He was born at Whipsnade in 2020, to mother Tashi and father Blue, as part of the European Ex-situ Programme (EEP) a conservation breeding programme.

Bristol Zoo Project is located near Junction 17 of the M5 and is currently undergoing an exciting transformation with the creation of a new conservation zoo, where around 80 percent of animals will be linked to its conservation work in the UK and around the world.

The first phase is due to begin in the spring and will see the creation of a new Central African Forest habitat, which will become home to the zoo’s existing troop of Critically Endangered western lowland gorillas. They’ll be joined by Endangered cherry-crowned mangabeys, Critically Endangered slender-snouted crocodiles and Endangered African grey parrots.

The attraction will remain open throughout the work and is already home to animals from around the world including giraffes, cheetahs, zebras, wolves, bears, lynx, deer, ostrich, gelada baboons and lemurs.

As well as seeing Nilo this spring, visitors can also take part in Bristol Zoo Project’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt trail. Running until Sunday 1 September, the immersive trail – inspired by Michael Rosen’s bestselling book – follows in the characters’ footsteps of the much-loved story.

Full of sensory installations, the interactive trail takes place in the real Bear Wood, where along a treetop walkway with panoramic views you can spot the zoo’s European brown bears who live alongside grey wolves, lynxes and wolverines in ancient British woodland.

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