SAN JOSE, Calif. – Happy Hollow Park & Zoo is adding two new members to its animal collection – Gaila and Will Smith, two endangered Red Pandas, who will be ready for visitors in their new habitat on Saturday, October 8, 2016.
Gaila is five years old and came to Happy Hollow from the Kansas City Zoo. Will Smith was born in the Bronx Zoo on July 4, 2015 (his name is a nod to Will Smith’s “Independence Day” movie).
The Red pandas are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program. The SSP program was developed in 1981 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered in the wild. SSP works with the Red Panda Network, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that is committed to the conservation of wild Red pandas and their habitat through the education and empowerment of local communities.
“Happy Hollow is so much more than just a park and zoo,” said Valerie Riegel, Zoo Director. “We believe strongly in conservation and education and these Red pandas are serving as ambassadors that will help ensure the survival of their species.”
Thanks to a $1 million donation, Happy Hollow was able to take on several projects over the last 2+ years including exhibits in the lower zoo and renovating a habitat to bring in Giant Anteaters. Now Happy Hollow has built a beautiful new exhibit for Red Pandas, complete with a climate controlled indoor area, with lots of yummy bamboo and misters to cool Gaila and Will Smith as they lounge.
“My contribution to the Happy Hollow Foundation was to be able to update some areas and bring new animals to San Jose’s Zoo,” said donor, Patty O’Malley. “I’m thrilled that this has brought Red Pandas to San Jose.”
Red pandas are unique because they are the only member of the family Ailuridae. Red pandas also serve as an indicator species for their temperate forest habitats in the Himalayas. This means that their presence or absence can give biologists an idea of the health of that habitat. Keeping Red Panda habitat healthy is important because it provides oxygen and clean water to both red pandas and people! Red pandas live in mountainous temperate forests in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. But zoos, including Happy Hollow, help keep the population safe, healthy and protected from deforestation, poaching and other threats to their survival.
Happy Hollow Park & Zoo Welcomes Red Pandas
“Endangered species’ survival often depends on public interest – and funding,” said Heather Lerner, Executive Director of Happy Hollow Foundation. “Patty’s donation was the reason we were able to acquire Gaila and Will Smith and we hope that when more people get to see these fuzzy firefoxes we will be able to attract more major donors to San Jose’s Zoo and help protect more species!”
Happy Hollow is excited to be among 80 zoos across the country working to protect red pandas, whose population is believed to be less than 10,000 wild adults.
The Red panda exhibit officially opens to the public on Saturday, October 8, 2016 and guests will be able to enjoy panda crafts, exhibit talks, food specials and have the opportunity to see Happy Hollow’s two new “Red” residents.