Red panda escape: Endangered animal found after escaping from Belfast Zoo

Power fault in electric fence allowed Amber the panda to escape

Tim Wyatt
Monday 28 January 2019 12:57
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The entire red panda family at the zoo
The entire red panda family at the zoo

An electricity failure has been blamed for the escape of an endangered red panda from Belfast Zoo.

The animal went missing on Sunday, sparking a search across the Belfast surburb of Glengormley where the zoo is located.

After a 12-hour search through Sunday evening and into Monday morning, the zoo announced the small cat-like creature - named Amber - had been found safe and well.

A spokesperson said it had been found in a residential area about a mile away.

Staff from the facility who were out looking for the animal in a search team found it “surprisingly close” to the initial sightings, she added.

After examining the enclosure Amber managed to break out of, zookeepers discovered there had been a power fault which had stopped an electric fence working.

"Our maintenance team were informed at the earliest opportunity and the fence has since been repaired," said Alyn Cairns, the zoo manager.

The entire red panda family at the zoo

"Safety and security of our animals is of paramount importance so we will continue to monitor this to ensure there are no further incidents.”

After she was taken back to her enclosure Amber was given a health check by the zoo's vet.

"Amber is in good health but continues to be observed," a statement from the zoo said.

The escaped red panda had only been born in the zoo last summer, as part of an international breeding programme for the endangered species.

Amber is one of two red panda cubs that were born at the zoo in June last year. Her twin is called Autumn.

Although the cubs are already almost grown to adult size, they only began venturing outside in November.

The pair were born to Chris, a red panda from a Dutch zoo, and Vixen, who came from Dresden Zoo in Germany. Both parents now also live in Belfast Zoo.

Police had previously said Amber was “believed to be currently taking in the sights of beautiful Glengormley” and warned motorists to be particularly vigilant in case the cub tried to cross some of the busy roads in the area.

Officers helped staff from the zoo search for the rare animal, guided by potential sightings from the public.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The red panda had been reported missing from Belfast Zoo yesterday afternoon with a sighting first reported around 5.30pm.

“We are grateful to members of the public who assisted with the search.”

Ms Cairns said Amber had spent a short time exploring the local area before the zookeepers' search team managed to track her down.

"We would like to thank all of those involved in the search for our missing red panda.

"We received several calls from local residents who reported sightings which helped the search team to track its location.”

Red panda triplets explore their sanctuary for first time

The species is native to the Himalayas and southern China, and is instantly recognisable thanks to its reddish-brown fur and long tail.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the red panda is facing a very high risk of extinction.

Ms Cairns said the breeding programme for red pandas was crucial because they were at risk of being hunted.

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Their bushy tails are also highly prized as a good luck charm for newlywed couples in China.

"Red pandas are an endangered species and are facing a high risk of extinction due to habitat loss and illegal hunting," she added.

"We were delighted to announce the birth of Amber and her sister Autumn in June 2018 and hope to continue successful breeding of this species in future.”

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