Endangered red panda dies at Greater Vancouver Zoo

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Image: Red Panda / Shutterstock

One of the Greater Vancouver Zoo’s new red pandas has suddenly passed away from a fungal disease.

The zoo in Aldergrove announced over the weekend that Rakesh, a male red panda, died unexpectedly last Monday, August 17. Rakesh and his sibling Arun are new additions, having arrived from the Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg just over two months ago as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival program.

A necropsy performed on the animal revealed that he had died of Blastomycosis, a disease commonly caused by the inhalation of fungal spores in decaying organic matter such as wood and leaves.

However, the zoo asserts that the infection occurred before the animals left Manitoba as the disease is rare in British Columbia. This is being confirmed by further tests conducted by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Furthermore, both siblings were immediately quarantined upon their arrival at the Greater Vancouver Zoo and have not had any exposure to soil.

With Rakesh’s passing, all attention is now being diverted to his sibling for any possible symptoms of illness.

“The care of Arun is our top priority right now and as a precaution, he is treated by our veterinarian with medication while further tests are conducted,” reads a statement by zoo officials.

“The Greater Vancouver Zoo has been working with the Assiniboine Zoo, SSP Veterinary Advisor, and all other zoos in Canada and US that currently had red pandas to communicate all findings, understand the circumstances of Rakesh’s infection and ensure we all have a healthy population of pandas.”

Red pandas, not to be confused for the more well-known giant panda, are an endangered species native to parts of the Himalayas and southwest China. There are less than 10,000 animals left due to continued poaching and habitat loss.

But like giant pandas, red pandas have a very low reproductive rate because females are receptive for only a 24 hour period each year.

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