Red Pandas living in zoos provide a reserve population to their counterparts in the wild. 26 Red Pandas in three Indian zoos were studied by a team of researchers to determine whether zoo life causes psychological stress in the animals. The findings were published in September in the scientific journal Nature Scientific Reports.
In addition to behavioral diversity, the research team explored possible stereotypic behaviors in Red Pandas. These are movements that the animals do all the time without a clear purpose, such as excessive grooming, tongue flicking, head bobbing, or even licking objects that can’t be eaten. These indications suggest that the animals are stressed.
Natural enclosures, natural behavior
The observed overall level of stereotypic behaviors was low, meaning that the 26 Red Pandas studied were not seriously stressed. Nevertheless, some unexpected correlations emerged. For example, otherwise barren enclosures enriched with fallen logs actually resulted in an increase in stereotypic behaviors in Red Pandas. If the animals were housed in enclosures that matched their natural habitat, then this would reduce or even eliminate the stereotypic behaviors..
Recommendations of the researchers
Based on their study, the researchers say that Red Panda habitats should have enough nesting boxes, at least one more than the number of animals in the habitat. Enclosures should have a sufficient number of tall trees and several logs connected with climbing paths for the animals. And feeding should take place at least twice daily at varying intervals.
Sohel Khan, A., Lea, S.E.G., Chand, P. et al. Predictors of psychological stress and behavioural diversity among captive red panda in Indian zoos and their implications for global captive management. Sci Rep12, 14034 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-17872-y