National Zoo announces unexpected death of 4-year-old red panda

WASHINGTON — A 4-year-old male red panda named Henry died unexpectedly Dec. 5 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and his keepers are still searching for answers.

National Zoo officials say that Henry seemed to be in good health before he died, and post-mortem radiographs revealed no signs of trauma or injury. Staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, are waiting on a final pathology report in the coming weeks for more information.

Red pandas live about eight to 10 years in the wild, and often live to be 16 years or older in captivity.

Henry was born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, in 2014. Keepers hand-reared Henry after his mother, Regan, was unable to raise cubs on her own in the past. He had three cubs — born in June 2016 and June 2017 — who are still alive.

Henry was also a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, a program that closely manages the breeding of some threatened or endangered species.

Red pandas are known for their unique coat color, short snouts and large, round heads with pointed ears, and bushy tails.

The species is considered endangered after its populations declined from habitat destruction in the bamboo forests of India, Nepal and China, where the red pandas are native.

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