Red panda escapes its enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo

Keepers hope Bruce and Ginger will breed to boost red panda numbers. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Keepers hope Bruce and Ginger will breed to boost red panda numbers. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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It’s been five months since two red pandas were the new kids on the Edinburgh Zoo block, but on Friday one of the pair broke free in a bid to explore his surroundings – outside the enclosure.

Bruce the red panda, who arrived at the zoo with mate Ginger on Valentine’s day, took a walk on the wild side by scaling the perimeter overhang and slipping out of the open-topped enclosure.

But he didn’t have a chance to stray far from his new digs, and with tail between his legs he was returned by keepers to a temporary enclosure.

What brought him to escape is mere speculation – an urgent desire to investigate his new home, a bid for freedom or perhaps a lovers’ tiff?

But keepers believe two-year-old Bruce was just keen to get a different vantage point of his new home.

A zoo spokeswoman said: “He was always in close proximity to the red panda enclosure and was keen to get a new perspective of the site. We have now altered the perimeter and removed the current tree guards to allow our red pandas to climb higher in the trees and get a different view.

“At no time were any members of the public at any risk from our resident red pandas.”

The foiled escape attempt took place on Friday morning while the zoo was open to the public but a spokeswoman confirmed the team followed necessary procedure to ensure that at no point were any visitors at risk.

A keeper told a visitor to the zoo that Bruce was quarantined while adjustments were made to his enclosure.

“They are repainting the fence of the enclosure so that if he escapes again we can see the paw marks on the clean surface and know what part of the enclosure to secure 
better.”

And he added that Ginger prefers not to be left holding the fort alone. “The female doesn’t like being on her own and gets nervous.”

When they first arrived in Edinburgh the couple were initially housed in separate enclosures to give them time to settle.

But they have since moved into a new area together near the front gate, thanks to a funding boost from the Postcode Lottery last year.

The red panda continues to be listed as an endangered species, thanks to loss of habitat, poaching and accidental trapping.

There are thought to be fewer than 10,000 still living in the wild.

Keepers hope that once Ginger and Bruce – who were both born in the Netherlands – are fully settled, they will breed to help boost species numbers.

A red panda couple have recently given birth to a pair of cubs at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie.

The duo of kits were born on June 14 and will be making their first public appearance in September.

Red pandas are native to Nepal, Bhutan, northeast India, Myanmar and south-central China.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk