‘We are heartbroken …’ Muse, the last red panda at this New York zoo, dies

UTICA — The last red panda at the Utica Zoo died unexpectedly before Christmas, according to a statement from the zoo Wednesday, writes eu.recordonline

Muse, a 10-year-old male, showed no signs of illness before his death, the statement said. Preliminary results from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine indicates the red panda died from an intestinal blockage, but the blockage was from his normal diet and it did not appear to contain foreign objects.

There also is evidence of an intestinal infection, though the cause of the infection and final results of the necropsy are pending, the statement said.

“We are heartbroken by the sudden and shocking loss of Muse,” said Jay Pratte, Utica Zoo director of life sciences and facilities. “One day he was behaving normally, interacting with an experienced keeper and on exhibit for guests; the next morning the same keeper was stunned to find that he had died overnight.”

Muse, a 10-year-old red panda, came to the Utica Zoo in 2012. He died from an intestinal blockage before Christmas.

Muse came to Utica from the Red River Zoo in North Dakota in 2012. He and his mate, Ming Yue, had two groups of cubs born in 2015 and 2019. Ming Yue died in October due to a lung infection.

Red pandas, which are an endangered species, can live as long as 23 years and show signs of aging between 12 and 14 years old, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

“The loss of any animal impacts the zoo staff at all levels; the fact that this tragic loss occurred so unexpectedly while we’re still under the cloak of grief from losing Ming Yu has been just terrible,” said Andria Heath, Utica Zoo executive director. “We’re grateful for the comfort being shared amongst the team, from our board and volunteers and from our community.”

The Utica Zoo has worked closely with the Red Panda Species Survival Plan for management, breeding and in conservation efforts, the statement said. The zoo will restore its collection when the new, four-season red panda habitat is constructed.

“The Utica Zoo has been in the development process to expand the red panda habitat with a new enclosure for some time,” Pratte said. “We will take this opportunity to closely examine how we might improve the environment even further so that we can remain active in the (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and management programs while continuing to provide a future home for one of the community’s signature and best-loved species.”

Steve Howe is the city reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email him at [email protected]


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