This is Tofu. She’s a baby red panda who was born at the Detroit Zoo in June, and made her public debut this past weekend.
On Saturday, Tofu and her mom, Ta-Shi, were seen together outside in a wooded part of their enclosure.
“Ta-Shi took her time bringing her adorable baby girl out into public view, but it was worth the wait,” Scott Carter, the zoo’s chief life sciences officer, said in a news release.
We’re happy you’re here, Tofu — and if you don’t mind us saying so, we think you’re so delicious we could just eat you up.
(Not literally; like red pandas most of the time, we’re vegetarians!)
Red pandas are compelling for more than their undeniable good looks.
They’ve got teams of scientists devoted to keeping their populations up — in the wild, where they face enormous habitat loss, and in zoos, where things also don’t always go easily for them.
We don’t just mean that they might escape and go for a frolic.
An excellent New York Times story about efforts to preserve the species sums it all up in the headline: “Red Pandas Are Adorable and in Trouble.”
The gist of it is that it’s very hard to study the red pandas in the wild, because there aren’t very many of them — about 10,000, according to the International Union of Concerned Scientists — and they are good at hiding.
Then in captivity, they don’t reproduce very well, George Mason University conservation biologist Elizabeth Freeman told the Times:
“One of the problems in maintaining populations is reproduction in captivity. Only about half of the young survive, and researchers say that is probably because mothers do not provide enough milk or care for the young properly. No one knows whether similar problems exist in the wild, Dr. Freeman said.”
That said, here’s an example of when it did go well:
If you missed her in person this past weekend, don’t worry. Zoo spokesperson Patricia Mills Janeway told The Huffington Post that little Tofu should be sticking around.
“The plan for now is to keep her at the Detroit Zoo,” Janeway said.
Keep tabs on Tofu over at the Detroit Zoo Facebook page.
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