It’s been a good couple of weeks for the three red pandas at the Edmonton Valley Zoo as they settle in to their new digs.
The endangered critters are part of the zoo’s species survival program. Breeding has been so successful, it was time for an upgrade to their facilities.
“So we really needed to expand the space for them and to encourage future litters and encourage the numbers of red pandas that we are bringing into the zoo,” zookeeper Sheena Gross said.
“Everything they had before was just man-made structures. This is the first time they’ve been able to climb up to the tree tops and really explore the natural areas.”
The new habitat features two large outdoor enclosures with wooden structures and three large trees, as well as a roomy indoor area.
“Summer is not their favourite time of year so we needed to have a big outdoor space for them to run around, as well as a nice cool space where it’s air conditioned,” Gross said.
Watch below (May 29): Get ready to enjoy some delicious food from local restaurants and sip on some creative cocktails, all while taking in the new Red Panda Exhibit and Urban Farm at the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
Though it was designed for four-legged friends, the pandas are not the only ones enjoying the new space.
“It’s pretty spectacular,” said Tammy Wiebe, the executive director of the Valley Zoo Development Society. “The pandas are loving it and the kids are loving it right alongside them.”
A new playground sits prominently in the middle of the newly opened area.
“It’s called the Red Panda Parallel Play Area where the kids can climb and move kind of like the red pandas would,” Wiebe said.
As construction draws to close, the new space will be formally opened to the public on June 21, but visitors are already being welcomed in.
The addition is perched beside the new Urban Zoo, which opened to guests in the spring and features goats grazing on the grassy roof.
The new two new areas had a price tag of about $20 million, with the Valley Zoo Development Society kicking in about 15 per cent.
After a decade of ongoing upgrades at the zoo, with this latest project taking two years to complete, work on phase two of the expansion means there will still be construction headaches.
“There’s still a few construction fences while we get ready for the next phase, but it’s beautiful to have this open area that’s a whole new place for people to explore,” Wiebe said.
As the development society works to continue to fund upgrades, its focus will also be on ensuring more success stories like that of Paprika, one of the born-in-captivity red pandas. The seven-year-old mom has been breeding healthy pups for zoos abroad, with one of them staying in Edmonton.
“This is actually is the first time she’s been in an outdoor enclosure where she’s got to run around so it’s really exciting,” said Gross.
The Valley Zoo Development Society is continuing to raise funds for future expansions and ongoing conservation programs.
Its annual ZooFest event is Saturday, June 14, featuring animal encounters alongside food vendors and handcrafted cocktails.