The Edmonton Valley Zoo announced Monday that its “beloved” red panda Pip passed away last week.
In a Facebook post, the zoo said Pip died on Jan. 8, with a post-mortem exam suggesting she passed peacefully in her sleep.
“Pip was gentle and calm, earning a reputation as the zoo’s sweetheart,” said the post on the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s Facebook page.
“She was friendly, always the first to the door to welcome a zookeeper into the red panda habitat.”
Delia Gruninger, the animal crew leader at the zoo, said that Pip had a strong bond with many of the employees.
“She was born here at the Valley Zoo,” said Gruninger. “Her mother couldn’t raise her, so she was raised by zookeepers.
“She always looked like she had this worried look on her face… she was a very special animal, she was near and dear to everybody.”
The zoo also said that Pip had been a valuable contributor to the international Red Panda Species Survival Plan, a coordinated breeding program between zoos meant to protect the genetic diversity of endangered species.
Pip was the mom of five: Qiji, born in 2011, twins Kola and Willow, born in 2015 and twins Paprika and Pepper, born in 2017.
Paprika still remains at the Valley Zoo, along with her father Kalden, who was Pip’s mate.
The cubs that Pip had have also had some of their own; she has seven grand-pandas to carry on her legacy living at zoos across the continent.
“Pip was an attentive, caring and protective mother, allowing her cubs to thrive,” the zoo said.
“We will cherish our memories of her and we know many of you will too. We will miss you, Pip.”
If people wish to honour Pip’s memory, the zoo is accepting donations in her name to the Valley Zoo Development Society, in person and online.
Pip was born on May 26, 2008, and was 11 years old. According to the zoo, red pandas have a life span of 12-14 years in captivity.