Mill Mountain Zoo Celebrates International Red Panda Day

Mill Mountain Zoo Celebrates International Red Panda Day


You are invited to attend Mill Mountain Zoo’s annual celebration of International Red Panda Day! The festivities will take place on Saturday, September 16, 2023, from 10:30 until 4 pm. The Zoo will have facepainting, a photo booth, local vendors, meet and greets with the animals ,Keeper chats, puppet shows, story time with Amanda Panda, and of course, training sessions with Frankie the Red Panda. It is sure to be a wonderful day at the Zoo for the whole family.    


Red Pandas have been beloved members of the Mill Mountain Zoo family since 1989. Nova, our retired Red Panda that lives onsite, but off-exhibit in luxury, came to the Zoo in 2007 and Frankie arrived in 2021.Nova turned 17 this year and has since retired and is no longer on exhibit. Frankie, however, is 6 and can be seen climbing, sleeping, eating bamboo, and playing in his enclosure during Zoo hours. He is very active and is known as “Spider-Man” and “the Brad Pitt of Red Pandas”.


Red Pandas are native to the eastern Himalayas of Nepal and southwestern China. Sadly, their numbers are decreasing daily due to human intervention and agriculture. There are only 10,000 Red Pandas left in the world and they are designated as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


There is an international effort to protect these wonderful creatures and the Mill Mountain Zoo is an important part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to preserve the Red Panda. The SSP keeps a stud book of all the red pandas in North American zoos, determines which animals should be mated, and develops long-term research and management strategies for the species.  The Zoo works closely with other zoological participants to protect these incredible animals.


Did you know that red pandas are not related to other pandas, like the giant panda, or to bears at all? In fact, they are in the same family as raccoons, weasels, and skunks! Their evolutionary lineage can be traced back around 25 to 18 million years according to the fossil record.


No one can deny how adorable these little pandas are, but did you know their name in Nepali, “nigalya ponya”, means “bamboo footed”? This is fitting because Red Pandas eat a staple diet of bamboo, but also eat fruits and blossoms. The Zoo even grows its own bamboo to ensure a steady and organic supply for Nova and Frankie.



“Working with Red Pandas is my dream come true. Gettingto work with Frankie is amazing. He has quirks that make him so unique. I do most of his training and it’s really special to me that we’ve bonded so well ”said one of his favorite zookeepers, Gretchen Hardy.


“Frank is a spunky little guy. He loves his grapes and craisins. He's very sweet. Although I'm his primary keeper, Gretchen is his favorite keeper. I've passed off his training to her due to their relationship. We work together to make sure he gets the best care possible. You never know what personalities will click and when that happens it's a very special thing. Watching the two of them interact is a real joy.”, said Senior Zookeeper, Brittany Furr-Stanfield.  


We hope to see you at the Zoo on Saturday to celebrate our wonderful Red Pandas and learn all about the good work we do here at the Zoo for all our animals and the Roanoke community.

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