Julianne Werts

This winter, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the red panda cubs out in their habitat. Born on August 17th, the two cubs have been staying inside their den as they grow bigger and stronger. Mom, Ember, is taking excellent care of them. The cubs have even started poking their heads out of the den to check out the outdoors!

The cubs’ names are Charlie Jr. and Charlotte, though their care team often calls them by their nicknames: C.J. and Lottie. These names are a nod to their late father, Charlie: a beloved red panda at the Lee Richardson Zoo who passed away in May. Their older sister, Shanu, still lives here at the Zoo and can often be seen climbing around her habitat.

Red pandas are huge fans of the cold! This species is native to the mountain forests of the Eastern Himalayas, where it is common for temperatures to reach below freezing in the winters. To survive these frigid times, they have thick fur that keeps them nice and warm. They even have fur covering the soles of their feet, instead of paw pads like many other mammals.

They can also use their long tail like a blanket or scarf, wrapping it around their body for extra warmth. Some of the best times to come watch the red pandas at play is on cold winter days.

Red pandas are also excellent climbers. They have a special rotating ankle joint that allows them to climb down trees head first, a trait that very few animals in the world have! In the wild, they would spend most of their time up in the trees of the forest.

Even their red coloring helps them survive up at this high level: it is the same color as the moss on the trees, so they blend in! Here at the Zoo, the red pandas always have plenty of branches, platforms, and other structures that they can climb on, so they can use this amazing natural ability.

The next time you visit the Zoo this winter, be sure to stop by Wild Asia and say hello to C.J. and Lottie! If you would like to see more updates about the cubs as they start to explore their outdoor habitat, be sure to follow the Lee Richardson Zoo on Facebook or check our website at

Julianne Werts is the education coordinator at Lee Richardson Zoo.