Missing red panda is found safe and well after it escaped from Belfast Zoo and spent more than 12 hours on the run
- Police in Northern Ireland believed animal was hiding in nearby Glengormley.
- People were urged to keep clear of the mammal because it ‘may be defensive’
- Two panda cubs were born to parents Chris and Vixen at attraction last June
A missing red panda was today found safe and well after escaping from Belfast Zoo and spending more than 12 hours on the run.
Police in Northern Ireland said the animal had disappeared yesterday and was believed to have been hiding in nearby Glengormley.
The public had been urged to keep clear of the mammal because it ‘may be defensive when cornered’.
One of the pandas at the zoo in Northern Ireland where two cubs were born last June
But a zoo spokesman revealed at about 11.30am today: ‘We are happy to report that the missing red panda has been located and is being returned to its home at Belfast Zoo – thanks to everyone for their help with the search!’
Two panda cubs were born to parents called Chris and Vixen at the zoo last year, but it is not clear if either of those is the animal that went missing.
A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman had said yesterday: ‘Earlier today a red panda decided to take a surprise vacation from Belfast zoo, it is believed to be currently taking the sights of beautiful Glengormley.
‘Should you see this panda, please ring us on 101, the PSNI along with help from our friends at the zoo will help transport the explorer home. These animals are nocturnal and would generally be located within wooded areas.
‘Please do not approach or attempt to capture this animal, although they are not aggressive by nature they may be defensive when cornered.
‘Our curious friend has not yet learned the green cross code, so if motorists could also be vigilant! Especially within the Glengormley area.’
Two twin red pandas – not related to giant pandas – were born at the zoo in June last year to parents Chris and Vixen.
Chris came from Beekse Bergen Safari Park in the Netherlands in 2013 while Vixen arrived from Germany’s Dresden Zoo in April 2017.
Belfast Zoo thanked ‘everyone for their help with the search’ after the red panda was found
A female red panda called Plocia also gave birth to a cub at the zoo in 2014. It is not clear which animal has vanished.
In June last year a spider monkey which escaped from the zoo was hit and killed by a car on a nearby motorway.
It was also not the first time a red panda has escaped from Belfast Zoo, after one of the animals disappeared from an enclosure in 2002.
The zoo is closed this week for maintenance works and was not open to visitors today.
Two of the red pandas are pictured at Belfast Zoo. The public has been urged to keep clear of the missing mammal as it ‘may be defensive when cornered’
According to zookeepers the red pandas are also known as ‘lesser’ pandas or ‘firefoxes’.
It was originally thought they were was related to the raccoon family or even the other bamboo eater, the giant panda, but they have since been classified as a unique species in their own family, the zoo said.
Red pandas eat mainly bamboo but will also consume berries, blossoms, bird eggs and even small birds.
The mammals spend most of their time in the trees, with sharp claws which make them agile climbers, according to zoo chiefs.
Red pandas (pictured at Belfast Zoo) eat mainly bamboo but will also consume berries, blossoms, bird eggs and even small birds
Zoo manager Alyn Cairns said at the time of the twins’ birth: ‘Red panda are native to the Himalayas in Bhutan, Southern China, Pakistan, India, Laos, Nepal and Burma.
‘However, red panda numbers are declining dramatically due to habitat loss and illegal hunting for their fur, in particular their long bushy tail which is highly prized as a good luck charm for Chinese newlyweds.
‘The International Union for the Conservation of Nature believes that the red panda is facing a very high risk of extinction and they are listed as the 20th most globally threatened species by the Edge of Existence Programme.’
There are believed to be under 10,000 red pandas left in existence, according to the World Wildlife Fund, with around 750 in zoos around the world.