After a two-year hiatus, red pandas are back at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. The new pair, Tusa and Asa, will serve as “ambassadors” for their endangered species.
Tusa, a 1-year-old male, was brought from the Scovill Zoo in Illinois. Keepers say he has “an easygoing personality and a healthy appetite, especially for fruit.” Asa, a 1-year-old female born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, is “sweet and timid.” She likes bamboo, grapes, and apples but not bananas.
Communications manager Annalisa Meyer says the two red pandas have been introduced and are “getting along great”–but not too great. The Species Survival Plan, which works to ensure biodiversity among animals in human care, has recommended that these two not mate for the time being. They will be kept in separate enclosures for the winter breeding season and moved into a shared space in the spring.
The zoo’s last red panda pair made headlines when the male, Rusty, escaped in 2013. His mate Shama has since passed away, but the famous Rusty is still at the SCBI, doing his part for the species. “He’s still here, he’s just making babies,” says Meyer. She notes that the new pair will be kept in a different home than the one Rusy manuevered his way out of, adding that “all our enclosures are safe and secure.”
You can visit Tusa and Asa at the Small Mammal House, where they will live until construction is finished on the Asia Trail.