PORTLAND, Ore. — Mei Mei the red panda and her son, Pabu, two of the Oregon Zoo's most beloved animals, are leaving Oregon and moving to their new home in Montana. The two pandas' last day at the Oregon Zoo will be Sunday, March 7.
Pabu was born last June. He earned the nickname the "Prince of Pounce" because of the way he would surprise his mother, Mei Mei, "with playful ambushes," the zoo said in a release.
The two pandas must leave the Oregon Zoo because of Pabu's age. Keeper Sara Morgan said Pabu is too old to stay with his father, Moshu, but he's too young to be without his mother.
"Wild red pandas are solitary except during breeding season, and the males are territorial," Morgan said. "It's been so fun to watch Pabu grow, and to see the way Mei Mei has taken care of him. The timing for this is right, but we're really going to miss them."
Moshu will stay at the Oregon Zoo and "enjoy his alone time," Morgan said.
Mei Mei and Pabu are going to a good home, Morgan said. She said the staff at ZooMontana, located in Billings, have a lot of experience caring for red pandas. The zoo has a large habitat with two yards that will give the mother and son plenty of climbing opportunities.
Last year, the zoo in Montana said goodbye to their 22-year-old red panda, Taylor, believed to be the oldest red panda in the world.
"I'm sure Pabu's youthful energy will keep them on their toes," Morgan said.
ZooMontana's keepers will eventually introduce Mei Mei and Pabu to the zoo's resident panda, Duli.
Red pandas are considered an endangered species. The Oregon Zoo said populations have declined by about 50% in the past 20 years. "While exact numbers are uncertain, some estimates indicate as few as 2,500 may be left in the wild," the zoo said in a release.