Franklin Park Zoo’s 2012 PreZOOdential candidate:

 

 

Stella Luna, red panda
Platform: Early childhood education

 

As a new mother to twins, Stella Luna knows how important it is to educate and nurture young children. For the first 90 days after birth, her twins stayed with her in the nest box while she cared for them. Now that the cubs are bigger, they are learning a lot from Stella Luna and she keeps a watchful eye on them as they play and explore.

 

Red pandas, which resemble raccoons, have white and red markings and are covered with dense fur. They use their long, bushy tails to balance when they are in trees. In the wild, red pandas can be found in the cool temperate bamboo forests in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan in China, as well as in the Himalayas and Myanmar. They share part of their range with giant pandas, a species that despite their name they are not related to. Red pandas have a varied diet, but do eat bamboo. They have a small bony projection on their wrists that helps them grip bamboo stalks. This species is scarce and declining, threatened by habitat loss in the wild.

 

Photo courtesy of Fran Mandeville.