Red Panda Conservation Breeding

Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a small mammal of the Himalayas, almost the size of a jungle cat with a chestnut coat and ringed tail. It is distributed in the Himalayas from Central Nepal through northern Burma in the mountains of South-Western China at an altitude ranging between 900-13,000 feet. In India, Red Panda is distributed in Sikkim, Darjeeling Hills, and Arunachal Pradesh. Red Panda is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation. Red Panda was also hunted and trapped in large numbers to be kept as pets and for supply to zoos all over the world. The species is enlisted as Endangered by the IUCN (2015) with a declining population in its distribution range. The species is a protected species in all its range countries (Nepal, Bhutan, India, Burma, and China). In India, species receive protection under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972). The species is also under the CITES Appendix I. Population is estimated fewer than 2500 according to the Red Panda network.

The Red Panda Conservation Breeding Project at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Darjeeling is one of the most successful and only breeding programmes for the species in its natural distribution zone.


To breed genetically and demographically viable red pandas in captivity with the aim to augment the ex-situ population when the need arises.

To create awareness of the importance of conservation of the species.

To facilitate research on the biology, management, and in-situ and ex-situ conservation of the species.


To increase the genetically healthy population.

To provide a backup population for the wild by breeding genetically and demographically competent individuals.

To donate stock to other zoos.

Monitoring and modifying management practices to provide survival of Red Panda in captivity as well as in the wild.

For research education and public awareness.


In 1986, a planned conservation Breeding Project as a part of the Global Captive Breeding Master Plan was initiated in the early nineties in Darjeeling Zoo in response to International Conservation efforts, though the initiation of the conservation breeding project and improvement/modification of the existing housing facility.

At the beginning of the project in 1990, the Park had one male (Basant) and three female red pandas (Amita, Chanda & Divya) of wild origin in stock. One male 'Oscar' was brought from Rotterdam Zoo on 1st April 1993 to augment the existing populations of 4 Red Pandas in the Park. The first successful (planned) breeding of the Red Panda occurred on 20.06.1994 when two cubs "Ekta" and "Friend" were born to 'Basant' and 'Amita'.

The population at the park was further augmented by the acquisition of red pandas from foreign zoos. Two males and 1 female namely 'Hari', 'Gora', and 'Indira' from Rotterdam, Koln, and Madrid respectively, arrived in Darjeeling on November 10, 1994, with the purpose of introducing new blood. Two more red pandas, one male and one female, namely 'Omin' and 'Vicky', from Rotterdam and Antwerp respectively were acquired on 25.12.1996 to continue the conservation breeding programme.

The ultimate objective of a conservation breeding project is the reintroduction or augmentation of the species in its wild habitat. Therefore in 2003 when the Park had a stable genetically healthy population of 21 red pandas, the Park released captive-bred red pandas into the wild habitat of Singalila National Park.

In 2007, Darjeeling Zoo was designated as the Coordinating Zoo for the conservation breeding of red pandas by the Central Zoo Authority, Himalayan zoological park, Sikkim was designated as the participating zoo. In 2007 and 2008 two wild-caught males and one female were acquired from the Auckland Zoo, in 2010 one female was again acquired from Auckland Zoo to increase the breeding potential and increase genetic variability of the existing captive population.

In 2012, a Red Panda census was carried out in Singalila National Park and Neora Valley National Park to assess their numbers in the wild through direct sighting and genetic analysis through fecal samples. 31 red pandas were directly sighted in both the national parks. Through genetic analysis, Singalila National Park had at least 38 (17:4:17) red pandas and Neora Valley National Park had at least 32 (12:13:7) red pandas. Along with the population assessment of the wild habitats, GIS mapping of both National Parks and threat analysis was also conducted.

A short-term research project was initiated from March 2012-2014 and funded by the Central Zoo Authority titled "Study of Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) in ex-situ facilities in co-relation with in-situ facilities for conservation breeding".

In 2013, hormonal and genetic analysis of the captive red pandas was conducted in association with LaCONES, CCMB. The results showed that the captive population was genetically diverse and all females exhibited hormonal cyclicity.

5 hectares of land in Topkedara block under Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary was handed over to Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park for the construction of the off-display Conservation Breeding Centre for Snow leopard and Red Panda. The new off-display Conservation Breeding Centre for Snow leopard (Uncia uncia) and Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) at Topkedara funded by the Govt. of West Bengal and Central Zoo Authority, MoEF was inaugurated on 08.10.2013 by the Honourable Minister in Charge (Forest) Shri. Hiten Barman along with North Bengal Development Minister Shri. Gautam Deb. The centre currently has 6 open enclosures for the red panda.

A research project titled "Red Panda Nutrition- Towards an Integrated Approach" funded by Central Zoo Authority was initiated in 2013.

Pt Govind Ballabh Panth High Altitude Zoo, Nainital was approved as the participating zoo by CZA in 2013.

Population Habitat Viability Analysis (PHVA) for red pandas was conducted in November 2014.

A pair of red pandas were transferred to Nainital zoo and one female red panda was acquired from Sikkim Zoo to further the breeding program in 2014.

A research project titled "Studies on the Population and Behavioural Ecology of Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) in Singalila National Park and Neora Valley National Park with reference to conservation" funded by the West Bengal Zoo Authority was completed in 2016.

One pair of red pandas was transferred to Tierpark Berlin zoo in 2020.

A research project titled "Studies on Population and Behavioural ecology of Red Panda in Neora Valley National Park", funded by West Bengal Zoo Authority was initiated in 2021, the project is still ongoing.

The Second Red Panda Global Species Management Workshop was organized and hosted by PNHZ Park, Darjeeling in association with West Bengal Zoo Authority in April 2019. It was attended by 11 foreign delegates including the International Stud bookkeeper of Red Panda & GSMP convener, Dr. Angela Glatston, Rotterdam Zoo, and 37 delegates from 7 states in India.

A research project titled "Studies on Population and Behavioural ecology of Red Panda in Neora Valley National Park", funded by West Bengal Zoo Authority was initiated in 2021, the project is still ongoing.

A research project titled "Red Panda Augmentation in Singalila National Park and Neora Valley National Park, West Bengal" for the red panda augmentation in Singalila National Park was initiated in 2019. 2 pairs of behaviourally morphologically, and genetically competent red panda was released in Singalila National Park in 2022 in order to augment the wild population. Post-release monitoring of the released captive pandas is being carried out by researchers.