A New Home for Red Pandas

A New Home for Red Pandas

November 30, 2023 / 5 mins read

Zoo Boise is building a spectacular new red panda enclosure and helping us plant a red panda home to save this endangered species.

In May 2023, Zoo Boise generously donated $90,000 to Red Panda Network (RPN) to support community-based red panda conservation in Nepal! Their contribution is part of the First Panda Challenge, which is doubling donations for our campaign to restore and reconnect habitat and establish a biological corridor for red pandas and other native species.

Their impact on red panda conservation doesn’t stop there; alongside their support of RPN, they are building a new and improved home for the red pandas living in their zoo.

Restoration Guardian at habitat reforestation site in Nepal.

We spoke with Jeff Agosta from Zoo Boise about the zoo’s red pandas (they have both Chinese and Himalayan species!), the impressive Red Panda Complex, and the zoo’s active involvement in efforts to save red pandas and other threatened wildlife.

RPN: What is your role at Zoo Boise? How long have you been there?

Agosta: I run the marketing and communications department at Zoo Boise and have been at the zoo for nine years. My core responsibilities are the zoo’s website, social media pages, signage, advertising, media contact, and video production. Still, with any non-profit, you are constantly changing hats and doing much more than what’s just in your job description.

RPN: Can you share your plans for a new red panda enclosure?

Agosta: We are fundraising to rebuild the Heart of the Zoo, including a new education campus, revamping our Small Animal Kingdom, and state-of-the-art homes for our sand cats and red pandas. The Red Panda Complex will truly be unique. It will include multiple outdoor habitats, indoor day rooms (with viewing windows), an overhead walkway for red pandas to move between areas, extra climbing opportunities, state-of-the-art temperature control, and an accessible pathway for guests. The Red Panda Complex will allow us to house several pairs of red pandas and their cubs. Zoo Boise has had success breeding red pandas as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Red Panda Species Survival Plan, and the new red panda home will allow us to do even more for red pandas.

Zoo_Boise_rp-bamboo.jpg © Zoo Boise

RPN: What is it like to care for both species of red pandas?

Agosta: At Zoo Boise, we currently have two Styan’s (Jasper and Stevie) and one Himalayan red panda (Spud). There isn’t a difference in how we care for both species. Any behavioral differences observed have had to do with individuals and are not specific to the subspecies. They receive the same diet, breeding management, and exhibit design. However, perching and den boxes differ slightly. For Styan’s, we need to ensure that they are big and sturdy enough to accommodate their larger size.

One concern with Styan’s, more so than Himalayan, is that they can easily become overweight. We must weigh them monthly and adjust their diet as needed. This adjustment is not only for health reasons but because research shows they are less likely to breed if overweight.

RPN: What inspires Zoo Boise's commitment to red panda conservation?

Agosta: Conservation is at the heart of what we do. Every part of our operation has wildlife conservation in mind. We were the first American zoo to require a conservation fee as part of admission, and 100% of the proceeds from our daily animal encounters support wildlife conservation. Additionally, part of every admission, event, and construction project goes to support our partners, like the Red Panda Network, who are working to save our wild counterparts. Just by visiting the zoo, our guests are taking conservation action.

Our animal residents are the ambassadors for their wild counterparts. Upon visiting Zoo Boise, we hope every guest becomes curious and connects with one of our animals, then leaves inspired to help protect that species in the wild. Our past success with red pandas, their future Zoo Boise habitat, and their natural charisma make it a perfect fit for us to focus a portion of our conservation fund on supporting the Red Panda Network. We want all of our zoo habitats to tie into one of the conservation projects we support, thus making it easier for guests to connect with wildlife and help save them.

© Zoo Boise

RPN: I can get information about the Zoo Boise Conservation Fund from your website, but is there anything you want to share about the Fund's impact?

Agosta: We give hundreds of thousands of dollars to our conservation partners in Africa, Asia, and right in our backyard every year. We couldn’t do it without the support of our guests, donors, and sponsors. You can learn more about our conservation fund at zooboise.org/conservation.

And we couldn’t make our progress to restore red panda habitat in Nepal without conservation partners like Zoo Boise! Thanks to them — and members and donors like you — we will plant 196,000 trees, bringing us to nearly 850,000 total trees planted in over 800 hectares of habitat in Nepal, and restore 200 hectares of degraded forest in 2024.

We are deeply grateful to Zoo Boise for your incredible and inspiring dedication to wildlife conservation and for helping us save the last of the first panda!

Terrance Lee
Deputy Director
Red Panda Network