Dim the lights and cue the Barry White. The Detroit Zoo has found a new mate for its 7-year-old red panda, Ta-Shi. Her potential suitor, 3-year-old Shifu, arrived in December with a “breeding recommendation” as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan — a sort of zoo-animal-dating service to bolster the populations of threatened species. The red panda’s mating season is January through March, a perfect time for these otherwise solitary creatures to be struck by Cupid’s arrow.
Despite their name, the house-cat-sized red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) aren’t actually bears. They’re found in the mountainous regions of Nepal, Myanmar, and central China, and because of deforestation, they’re considered “vulnerable.”
Since her arrival in November 2008, Ta-Shi’s had a successful mommy track record, spawning five cubs (her most recent, Sherman, still resides at the Detroit Zoo). Zoo staffers say she’s very attentive and protective of her babies and that she also has quite the sweet tooth. Her favorite treat: dried cherries.