May 13, 2024

Zoo Rolls Out the Red Carpet for New Mascot

A Red-letter Day to Introduce a New Friend

 

The Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium is rolling out the red carpet for the debut of its newest mascot. The masked creature being unmasked is none other than everyone’s favorite firefox – the red panda! Pittsburgh Zoo fans will have the opportunity to suggest names for the new mascot at pittsburghzoo.org, with contest funds going directly to support red panda conservation.

The red panda is a highly appropriate ambassador. One of the Zoo’s most popular residents, the playful and popular panda represents the unforgettable fun of a trip to the Zoo. As an endangered species, it also signifies the institution’s longtime commitment to conservation.

Members of the public are invited to submit names in a contest on the Zoo’s website with a minimum $1 donation. Name suggestions will be accepted for one week, from now until Friday, May 17, then they will be vetted by staff and the ultimate winner will be announced May 31 on the Zoo’s social media channels.

Proceeds benefit the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ SAFE Red Panda program. The program coordinates zoos across the country with conservation efforts in the field, including habitat conservation and restoration, surveys of wild populations, conservation education, and prevention of wildlife disease. The program was launched in January with sixteen zoo partners currently. The Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium is providing leadership and significant support for the SAFE Red Panda program. There are as few as 2,500 wild pandas left in the wild with a 50% decline in their population over the last two decades. The red panda has both a highly specified diet and ecological niche, which makes it more vulnerable to climate change and habitat loss. 

The mascot’s look mirrors that of its iconic inspiration. It sports a coat of red fur, which matches the moss found on the trees where they live. A contrasting black belly conceals it from predators below. Its paws are covered in fur, perfect for keeping warm and gripping slippery branches. Its face has a white mask with reddish-brown tear marks stretching from its eyes to the corner of its mouth, natural sunglasses that evolved to shade its eyes. The ultimate accessory is a striped fluffy tail, which helps it keep balance while climbing, and, for evening, can double as a blanket to stay toasty.

Any panda party better be well-stocked with bamboo! 95% of the red panda’s diet is bamboo – they eat up to 20,000 leaves each day. The other 5% includes eggs, berries, and insects. The pandas are native to the mountain forests of Nepal, India, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. All red panda homes are in Asia’s high altitude temperate forests that have plenty of available bamboo.

Although in the spotlight, the creature’s life is not quite panda-monium. It spends 55% of its days sleeping. Red pandas are most active in the early morning and later afternoons, and prefer an early dinner rather than painting the town red. They communicate using body language, such as head bobbing and tail arching, and a variety of noises, including a “huff-quack” and a whistle of warning.

To participate in the contest, please click here or click the link below. Zoo guests should be on red alert to catch a glimpse of this fur-midable fashionista soon, as well as visit our resident red pandas Xia and Marcy in their home in the Zoo’s Forest Passage area.

suggest a name

Submit a name for the new mascot with a minimum of a $1 donation that supports the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’  SAFE Red Panda conservation program! Be sure to type your name suggestion in the name box before you add your donation amount to your cart.