Zoo Welcomes Chewbacca the Red Panda
Chewbacca, a 6-year-old red panda
Credit: Denver Zoo

The Denver Zoo is playing matchmaker for its 6-year-old red panda Daisy.

Keepers recently welcomed a male named Chewbacca, also 6, as a mate for their lone female. Chewbacca arrived from the Detroit Zoo late last year and can now be seen by the public in the outdoor habitat of his new home, according to a statement from the zoo.

He had been recommended as a mate for Daisy by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, which promotes genetic diversity among captive breeding animals. A previous red panda couple at the zoo, He-Ping and Sophia, had six cubs between 2008 and 2009, Denver Zoo officials said.

These critters are native to the Himalayas and are sometimes called firefoxes for their reddish fur. The bamboo-eating creatures, once thought to be closely related to giant pandas, are considered close cousins of raccoons.

The species is listed as vulnerable by International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and there are thought to be less than 2,500 adult red pandas left in the wild. Their population is threatened by habitat fragmentation and hunting.

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