Valentine's Day is meant for human love and meeting that special partner for the first time. It's no different in the animal kingdom either, at least not for Sumo the red panda at Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka. On Feb. 14, 2013, Valentine's Day, Sumo was introduced to a female red panda by the name of Stella Luna. She is visiting from Franklin Park Zoo in Boston in hopes that the pair will become parents in the summer. Sumo's brother, Shifu, is currently on loan to Detroit Zoo where he has been living with a female red panda since early December.
“For us, it was kind of neat that the timing worked out to introduce [Sumo and Stella Luna] on Valentine’s Day,” said Zoo Manager Gretchen Ziegler. “Of course, the pandas don’t care what day it is. What is important to them is that they come together in mid-winter to establish a bond that works for the timing of the female’s estrus later in spring, like they do in the wild.” If all goes well between the captive red pandas, Sequoia Park Zoo could become the home of the offspring of Sumo and his mate by this summer.
The zoo population of Red pandas is managed by the Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP), created and managed by zoo professionals. Panda pedigrees from all participating North American zoos are analyzed, and breeding matches are carefully chosen to ensure the best possible genetics for the captive population.
The male and female red pandas were introduced face to face today and now share their exhibit space with an Indian muntjac. Sequoia Park Zoo is open Tues.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. so visitors can have a look at Sumo, Stella Luna and all the other animals that call the zoo home. For more information, contact the zoo at (707) 441-4263 or visit their website.