Hope and Love Spring Eternal with two new residents at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. Love is in the air for two of Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s resident bachelors: Jabba the Sloth, and Rochan the Red panda. The Zoo is now the new home for Hope, a sloth that once made her home in Connecticut before transferring temporarily to John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Meri, a four year old Red panda, newly arrived from the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Delaware. Both of the new arrivals have spent the past several weeks becoming accustomed to their new homes, and being gradually introduced to their significant others.
Hope, the Two-Toed Sloth
Jabba and Hope are currently getting to know each other by occupying space side by side in the Animal Health Care Center. Both are Two-Toed sloths (Choloepus didactylus), a species found in Central and South America. Largely nocturnal and solitary, sloths are arboreal, living in trees in rainforests and as well as deciduous forests. The two-toed sloth is larger and (relatively) faster than its cousin, the three-toed sloth. They spend most of their lives snoozing in the rainforest treetop canopy, hidden from predators but vulnerable to deforestation. Hope is not currently on exhibit, but will soon join Jabba in the Rainforest Building.
Meri, the Red Panda
Meri, short for Meriadoc, arrived several weeks ago from the Brandywine Zoo in Delaware, and has also been undergoing a period of adjustment to her new surroundings. She was named for Meriadoc Brandybuck, a character in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings. Red pandas (Allurus fulgens fulgens) are not true pandas, rather, they are a unique species whose name “panda” is derived from a Nepalese word, “ponya,” meaning “eater of bamboo.” Like many in the Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s animal collection, the red panda is threatened in the wild by territory loss and fragmentation, resource depletion, and are frequently hunted for their beautiful fur.
Rochan and Meri will soon have a spacious new home together. The Zoo broke ground on a new habitat for the Red pandas in August, 2017.
The Natt Family Red Panda Pavilion was made possible thanks to two substantial donations: from Bob and Helen Natt of Easton, and a matching grant for monies raised by supporter donations from the Werth Family Foundation. The new Red panda habitat will feature a yard landscaped with bamboo – (Rochan eats approximately 1,000 bamboo leaves daily!) – with plenty of treetop spots for sunbathing. Hailing from the Himalayas and the mountain ranges of southwest China, Red pandas prefer colder climates. The new habitat will have cool spaces to enjoy in the summer, and outdoor space to explore in the winter.
Managed by the AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP), inter-regional transfers are arranged with careful attention to gene diversity in the hope that successful breeding will take place.
“Meri is a beautiful Red panda, and has an outgoing personality that will make her a Zoo favorite,” said Gregg Dancho, zoo director. “The new Natt Family Red Panda Pavilion will provide Rochan, Meri, and any offspring an expanded new habitat designed for their comfort and happiness as well as optimal guest viewing.”
“We’re delighted to have Hope, the sloth, return to us,” he continued. “When the sloths return to their exhibit, they will be in the Rainforest Building where they can be viewed doing very little most of the time.”
“The Zoo’s breeding program exists to bolster the dwindling number of animals still in the wild,” explained Dancho. “It’s a real testament to our Zoo’s strong reputation for working to protect endangered species and to educate our guests about them. It’s an important part of our mission and we’re justifiably proud of that.”
Spend the day a world away! Connecticut’s only zoo, celebrating its 96th anniversary, features 300 animals representing primarily North and South American species. Visitors won’t want to miss our Amur (Siberian) tigers, Brazilian ocelot, Red wolves, and Golden Lion tamarins. Other highlights include our South American rainforest with free-flight aviary, the prairie dog exhibit with “pop-up” viewing areas, the New England Farmyard with goats, cows, pigs, sheep, and other barnyard critters, plus the hoofstock trail featuring bison, pronghorn, deer, and more. Visitors can grab a bite at the Peacock Café, eat in the Picnic Grove, and enjoy a ride on our colorful carousel. For more information, visit beardsleyzoo.org.