Love at First Scent – A Valentine for Sumo the Red Panda

Red Panda - Sequoia Park Zoo - CREDIT JANEE ZAKOREN

Sumo, a male Red panda, looks up at female Stella Luna during their first introduction at Sequoia Park Zoo.

February 14, 2013

Sequoia Park Zoo’s Red panda, Sumo, had a special Valentine’s Day when animal care staff introduced him to his new mate, a female named Stella Luna, for the very first time.

In 2010, Sumo and his brother Shifu came from the Denver Zoo to make Sequoia Park Zoo their home for the next two years. Last summer, they each got the nod of approval to begin breeding and arrangements were made to transfer the pandas to other accredited zoos.

The zoo population of Red pandas is managed by the Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP), created and managed by zoo professionals. Panda pedigrees from all participating North American zoos are analyzed, and breeding matches are carefully chosen to ensure the best possible genetics for the captive population.

The SSP determined that Shifu should travel to the Detroit Zoo to pair with a female panda there. He was transferred in early December and is getting along well with his new mate. Sumo didn’t seem to mind the absence of his brother and continues to share the habitat at Sequoia Park Zoo with the Indian muntjac.

The SSP designated Stella Luna, a female from the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, to pair with Sumo. After a required 30-day quarantine for health screening in Sequoia Park Zoo’s Animal Care Center, staff recently prepared each panda for their introduction by swapping body scents between the two. “Scent-marking is an important method of communication for pandas,” said Animal Care Supervisor Amanda Auston. “Scent swapping allows each panda to adjust gradually and gives them an understanding that a potential mate is in the area prior to their physical introduction.”

This morning, Stella Luna was transported from the care center to the panda exhibit, where she and Sumo met face to face for the first time.

“For us, it was kind of neat that the timing worked out to introduce them on Valentine’s Day,” said Zoo Manager Gretchen Ziegler. “Of course, the pandas don’t care what day it is. What is important to them is that they come together in mid-winter to establish a bond that works for the timing of the female’s estrus later in spring, like they do in the wild.”

With a bit of luck and love, the pandas may become parents sometime this summer. So bring your loved ones and stop on by the Sequoia Park Zoo to give Stella Luna a warm welcome into our community.

Contact: Gretchen Ziegler, Zoo Manager
Phone:   (707) 441-4227
E-mail:    zoomanager @


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