Archive: Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Helps Fund New Red Panda Habitat at Detroit Zoo

$500,000 gift will support major expansion

December 13, 2017

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

It’s red panda-monium at the Detroit Zoo as construction is set to begin on a major expansion of the home of these charismatic creatures, thanks in part to a $500,000 grant from the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation.

The Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest will provide a larger and more stimulating naturalistic environment that ensures the red pandas’ overall well-being while creating an impactful educational experience for the Zoo’s more than 1.5 million annual guests.

“We are grateful to the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation for its partnership with the Detroit Zoological Society over the years,” said Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO for the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS). “This gift enables us to enhance the care we provide to the red pandas at the Detroit Zoo and significantly furthers our education efforts that support the critical conservation work for this endangered species and its wild habitat.”

Education is an essential and integral component of this project, with interactive learning experiences built into the design to increase guests’ knowledge about these animals and activate conservation action in their natural habitat. Impactful messaging will detail the habitat loss and population decline of red pandas in the wild as well as highlight both the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation’s and the DZS’s efforts to preserve this endangered species in Nepal.

“These elements will serve to foster respect, create connections, build compassion and provide opportunities for guests to take helpful action,” Kagan said.

The animal habitat will be dramatically reimagined, expanding by about 4,000 square feet to more than 14,000 square feet, with additional natural elements incorporated. These include a flowing stream, a larger and more complex arboreal pathway through the habitat, misting areas to cool the red pandas in the summer, additional land for exploration and a variety of new nesting places.

“A new elevated rope walkway that transects the habitat will provide an exciting experience for guests and unparalleled views of these arboreal animals,” Kagan said.

Another significant part of this expansion is a new indoor holding area with spacious heated and cooled areas equipped with nest boxes, branches and other features to ensure the red pandas’ health and welfare during the occasional times they are not in the outdoor habitat.

The Detroit Zoo is currently home to three red pandas: 1-year-old male Ravi, 2-year-old female Ash and 12-year-old female Ta-Shi. The DZS has long been engaged in a cooperative breeding program through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Nine cubs have been born at the Detroit Zoo over the past nine years, all of whom have moved on to other accredited zoos to enhance the genetic diversity of the population.

It is estimated that fewer than 10,000 red pandas remain in the wild. The DZS and Holtzman Wildlife Foundation both support and collaborate with the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal to conserve red pandas.

The mission of the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation is to reduce and reverse negative human impact on endangered wildlife by funding and supporting projects that create lasting change through education, advocacy and repopulation worldwide. The Foundation was established in 2015 to help small, grant-funded projects obtain the backing and exposure they need to improve outcomes for endangered species.

The Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest was designed by Jones & Jones, architects of the Detroit Zoo’s Polk Penguin Conservation Center, Arctic Ring of Life and National Amphibian Conservation Center. The total project cost is estimated to be more than $700,000.

This is the latest construction project in a series of new additions and renovations the DZS has undertaken in recent years to transform the habitats at the Detroit Zoo. The Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness opened in 2015; the Polk Penguin Conservation Center – the largest penguin center in the world and winner of the AZA’s 2017 Exhibit Award – was unveiled in 2016. A renovated and expanded Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat opened in 2017. Work on the Devereaux Tiger Forest is currently underway, as well as an expanded and renovated facility for giraffes and a new habitat for the Japanese giant salamanders.