Three new animals will join the Henry Vilas Zoo family just in time for the New Year, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today. Lum the red panda, Steve the agouti, and Hattie the tapir have arrived as a part of ongoing efforts by zoo staff to preserve endangered populations of animals from across the world.
“We are fortunate to have a world-renown zoo, right here in Dane County, that does so much to bring attention to the importance of wildlife protection” said Parisi. “These new residents are a testament to that work. I encourage residents and visitors to come out to our free zoo and see them soon.”
A male red panda, Lum, will be paired with current zoo resident Sha-Lei in hopes the two will breed. Red pandas live in the cool temperate forests of Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces of China and from Western Nepal through Northern Burma. They are shy and solitary animals, except when mating. Red pandas are curious, gentle animals endangered primarily due to deforestation in their homeland.
Steve the orange-rumped agouticomes to the Henry Vilas Zoo from the Brit Spaugh Zoo in Great Bend, Kansas. Agoutis are rodents from rainforests of Mexico and Central and South America, playing an important role in spreading seeds by burying food and hiding it for later. Agoutis can grow two feet in length, and weigh between 1 and 13 pounds. They are true athletes, with the ability to run very fast and to jump up to six feet straight up in the air.
A new, two-year old female Malayan tapir named Hattieis also on exhibit at the zoo. Tapirs are distant relatives of horses and rhinoceroses, and have a short, prehensile snout they use to grab leaves and fruits from branches. Like agoutis, tapirs help spread seeds in their native habitats and encourage new plant growth. They are excellent swimmers and often dive under water to feed on plants. All four species of tapir are threatened or endangered due to habitat loss and hunting.
“The new members of our zoo family will help us do even more to educate our visitors about these amazing animals and what we can all do to preserve them and their habitats,” said Interim Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz. “We can’t think of a better way to ring in the new year.”
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