Keepers invite community to support the zoo via a name-the-baby raffle
Mei Mei's red panda cub has begun venturing outside, and Oregon Zoo keepers say it's time for the little guy to get a name. That's where you come in!
To help fund critical needs during an especially challenging year, keepers have handed naming honors over to the Oregon Zoo Foundation, which is raffling off a chance to help "dub the cub."
The winner of the raffle — to be announced Friday, Sept. 25, during the foundation's free online fundraiser, Zoo Rendezvous — will get to meet with Mei Mei's care staff and help them decide on a name.
Proceeds from Zoo Rendezvous — presented by Banfield Pet Hospital, KGW, PGE and The Standard — will fund important enhancements to three new animal areas at the zoo, and support the zoo's vital efforts in animal care, education and conservation. Raffle participants must be 18 years or older and must be in the state of Oregon at that time of purchase.
"Mei Mei has been a terrific mom so far, and her boy appears to be in great health," said Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's red panda area. "He's curious and active, and he has been venturing outdoors quite a bit. Now we need to find a name that suits him."
Mei Mei and Moshu, the cub's father, are no strangers to the parenting game. The pair — who both came to Oregon in 2019 on a recommendation from the AZA's Species Survival Plan for red pandas — also produced two cubs at the Nashville Zoo in 2017.
Red pandas are considered an endangered species, with populations declining by about 50% in the past 20 years. While exact numbers are uncertain, some estimates indicate as few as 2,500 may be left in the wild. In addition to habitat loss and fragmentation, red pandas also face threats from poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
"Fifty years ago, red pandas had healthy populations throughout the eastern Himalayas," Cutting said. "But they've been disappearing at alarming rates. Hopefully, we can start a new chapter in the conservation of a species that is sharply declining in the wild."
Though they share part of their name with giant pandas, red pandas are in a class all by themselves: The sharp-toothed, ring-tailed omnivores are the only members of the Ailuridae family. Found in the montane forests of the Himalayas and major mountain ranges of southwestern China (Nepal, India, Bhutan, China and Myanmar), their striking red, white and black fur provides camouflage in the shadowed nooks of the trees amongst reddish moss and white lichens.