WINSTON — Getting red pandas to Wildlife Safari has been a goal of staffers there for at least the past two years. Achieving that goal during a worldwide pandemic became a bit of a challenge.
But here are Freddie and Remi, which were brought all the way across the continental United States from Virginia. Their species is on the Endangered Species list, and the World Wildlife Fund in 2019 estimated that there are around 10,000 remaining in their native Himalayan Mountains around Tibet, Nepal and China.
It took a mountainous effort, however, to bring them to the West Coast from the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, Virginia — and Wildlife Safari staffers have the coronavirus pandemic to thank for that.
“Ellen and I were part of the team that had to go to get them,” said Sara Healas, the supervisor for the Wildlife Safari Village who went with keeper Ellen Schorn to bring the animals back to Winston. “It was an adventure, for sure.”
Healas and Schorn were able to catch a flight across the country — amid travel and shipping restrictions put in place due to the pandemic — to pick up Freddie and Remi, then took three days to come across the country with Wildlife Safari’s new residents. Before that, some of the animals had to be relocated to different parts of the facility so the red pandas would have enough room to roam around and be comfortable in their pen, which previously housed Wildlife Safari’s bald eagle.
It was the ideal place to put them given the accommodations they’d need. Schorn said they’re more active at night, but the red pandas have a cooling house they can retreat to during the hot summer days to come. They also have plenty of bamboo leaves and frozen grapes for them to snack on to make them feel at home.
They’re the second set of red pandas to come to Oregon — red pandas are also at the Oregon Zoo in Portland — and were born to Masu and Timur in Virginia. Healas said Freddie is the more active of the two, but tends to be shy. Remi, she said, is more relaxed and friendly.
Red pandas have bright-red fur coats and raccoon-like striped tails. Healas said they can live 7 to 8 years in the wild and up to 15 years in captivity.
Freddie and Remi can be seen at Wildlife Safari in the Safari Village, which is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.