Something you might not know about keepers and zoos is that we love to help each other. We exchange emails, phone calls, and meet up at workshops and conferences. The goal is to share information that could improve an animal’s welfare. We are all passionate about doing the best we can for our animals and our visitors. Sharing the knowledge we have and learning about what has worked for others is something we strive to do as often as possible.
As a member of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Potter Park Zoo has an extended network of support for its red pandas and their keepers. The AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) has published a care manual. This care manual is a collection of the best practices in red panda care put together by experts in the species including information on exhibit recommendations, diets, breeding, and much more. The manual was a key resource when we were designing our new exhibit and preparing for Maliha and Rupert’s first breeding season. The AZA also hosts husbandry courses. When PPZ staff decided we were going to renovate the exhibit, one of our keepers attended the yearly red panda SSP breeding plan meeting and husbandry course. After returning from the husbandry course we not only had the manual for support, we also had lots of contacts with other zoos who were successfully breeding their pandas and caring for cubs. As we planned and now as we move through Maliha’s first breeding season, we have been in contact with our friends at other zoos and the Red Panda SSP. Anytime we need advice we have multiple resources to pull from in order to make the best decisions for our animals. We feel having these resources available has been invaluable and we are grateful to be a part of the AZA community.