Two adorable red panda cubs born at Blackpool Zoo
Two red panda cubs have been born at Blackpool Zoo, the first for more than a decade.
Keepers said they were overjoyed to find the two additions nestled together shortly after their birth on Friday, June 18.
Their first health checks confirmed the charming duo are a boy and a girl.
They have been left with their mum, Alina, and dad, Tao Tao, so they can care for their young naturally.
Luke Forster, Section Head of Birds, Reptiles and Small Mammals at Blackpool Zoo, was delighted when he first saw the babies.
He said: "It is wonderful to see Alina and Tao Tao become parents for the first time together.
"Alina settled in really well after arriving during Spring 2020 and we were hoping that she would breed, so this is just brilliant news."
First time mum Alina, who is two-years-old, arrived at Blackpool Zoo during the first national lockdown where it is said she settled in "very well" with eight-year-old Tao Tao.
Red Pandas breed in spring and summer and cubs are born following a three-month gestation period.
To celebrate the birth, and to mark International Red Panda Day on September 18, Blackpool Zoo is holding a competition on its social media pages to name the new babies.
The two winners will each receive a pair of tickets to Blackpool Zoo.
"The timing couldn't have been better, with September 18 being International Red Panda Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of this species in the wild," Luke added.
"They are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List, with numbers still declining due to the loss of habitat from deforestation and the expansion of agriculture in their native Asian forests.
"These two tiny additions are a fantastic way to end what has been a great summer season here at Blackpool Zoo and we look forward to seeing them out and about in the coming months."
Red pandas are native to the Eastern Himalayas and spend most of their lives in trees, including when sleeping. They are mostly nocturnal but they also forage for food at dusk and dawn.
The red panda had been previously classified in the families Procyonidae (raccoons) and Ursidae (bears), however recent research has placed it in its own family Ailuridae.
Often associated with the giant panda, they are smaller than people might expect - only the size of a typical house cat, with a long, bushy tail that adds up to 18 inches to their length.
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