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Botanic Gardens and Fleming Fulton School welcome Belfast Zoo’s latest arrival

Date: 03 May 2017

Vixen the Red Panda

Botanic Gardens and Fleming Fulton School’s P5 class have extended a warm welcome to Belfast Zoo’s newest resident, Vixen, the female red panda.

Vixen arrived from Dresden Zoo, in Germany, on Friday 27 April 2017 and was introduced to male, Chris, on Tuesday 2 May 2017.

The word ‘panda’ originates from the Nepalese ‘Nigalya ponya’, which means ‘bamboo eater’. Bamboo makes up the biggest part of this animal’s diet and, to welcome the latest arrival, Belfast Zoo teamed up with Botanic Gardens and Fleming Fulton School’s P5 class to create a feast fit for a panda.

Fleming Fulton School’s P5 teacher, Miss Wilson, explains, “We were invited to help the team at Botanic Gardens to collect and deliver bamboo to the new red panda at Belfast Zoo. You can imagine our delight at being selected to be one of the first people to see Vixen the red panda in her new home and to take part in this project. Learning outside the classroom in the park and at the zoo provides the perfect platform for the children to discover and learn about the world around us, biodiversity and conservation. This experience is something which I am sure they will never forget!”

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said “We would like to take this opportunity to thank Botanic Gardens and the P5 class for their help. There are natural links between Belfast Zoo and Botanic Gardens. The impact of mankind has had a detrimental impact on the flora and fauna of the world. While Belfast Zoo cares for endangered and even extinct animal species, it is estimated that up to 100,000 plants are currently threatened or face extinction in the wild. This represents more than one third of all of the world’s plant species. The majority of animals are facing increasing threats due to the destruction of their habitat. The team at Botanic are committed to protecting the habitats and plant-life of the world especially with the opening of the £3.8million restoration of the Tropical Ravine, which is due to open later this year.

Alyn continues “Red pandas are found in the forests of the Himalayan Mountains. The red panda gets its name from the fiery colour of the coat and in China is called the ‘hon ho’ which means ‘fire fox’. For this reason, Belfast Zoo keepers have named the new arrival ‘Vixen’. This stunning species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild and is even extinct in some regions of China, demonstrating the importance of zoos and their role in the conservation of the red panda through collaborative breeding programmes. We look forward to hearing the pitter patter of little panda feet in the future.”