Sacramento Zoo officials announced Monday that veterinarians have reduced the number of feedings for a red panda cub, who was born June 8 at the zoo, from four to three each day.
The change in feeding regimen is a positive sign for the male cub who is being hand-raised by zoo staff after he failed to gain weight and his mother exhibited inappropriate behavior, according to zoo spokeswoman Tonja Candelaria.
"He's doing really well," Candelaria said about the cub, who has yet to be named. "He's becoming more active during the day time, and (staff) have given him a larger area to play in. He's loving a stuffed fox in the exhibit. He's started rolling around with it, and chewing on it a little bit."
To explain the reduction in his feeding times, Candelaria compared the cub to a human babies, who as they grow older, require fewer feedings and less time between them.
The zoo will continue to make two of these feedings public, but at different times than previously scheduled.
At noon and 4:15 p.m., the public now can catch a glimpse the cub through a window at Dr. Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital in the zoo. At each of these feedings, zoo staff members use a tube attached to a syringe, and feed the cub milk with a lactase supplement.
Candelaria said the public feedings have remained "extremely popular," and advised the public to come early if they want a view of the window.
The newest cub was born to mother, Pili, and father, Takeo. His birth marks one of only four known red panda births in the United States to date this year.
While the newest cub initially seemed to be doing well, zookeepers noticed that he wasn't gaining weight after five to seven days, and began hand-feeding him. The cub was then removed from her mother's care when she began to behave inappropriately around her son.
Candelaria said while the zoo does not have a time table, the cub will eventually be moved to the zoo's Claire Mower Red Panda Habitat, where he will be kept off exhibit while he continues to grow. Zoo officials plan to name the cub about the time he turns 3 months old.
The newest cub will then slowly be introduced to one or more of the other red pandas in the exhibit. There are currently six red pandas, including the new cub, at the zoo.
"It's a day by day progress," Candelaria said. "We're just taking this day by day, week by week."
Call The Bee's Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.