Maina, the 3-year-old red panda at the Chattanooga Zoo, has died and zookeepers are concerned about her two baby cubs.
Darde Long, Chattanooga Zoo Director/CEO said an employee found the red panda unresponsive over the weekend and brought her to the animal hospital.
"He had found her in the exhibit completely unresponsive with no signs of life," Long said, "The initial report from UT is completely inconclusive, there's nothing that showed up like there was a massive heart attack or something like that and her health was excellent."
Maina's cause of death is unclear. Her body has now been transported to the UT Veterinary College for examination. It could take two months until a full necropsy examination is complete.
Maina gave birth to two baby cubs just three months ago and the two boys haven't been weaned from their mother.
"You know to be honest we could lose them, because of the change in nutrition, they're going to have some challenges coming up," Long said.
The cubs weren't set to be fully weaned for another two months and are now being fed a mashed biscuit diet by hand. The cubs don't have names yet and at this age normally wouldn't be held at all, so it's challenging to get them into their feeding bag.
But in a way, this unexpected parenting is keeping the employees in high spirits.
"And honestly it's like a godsend because it makes us focus on the babies and you can't dwell as much on what's happened," Long said.
Long said Maina loved meeting zoo guests and munching on grapes, and she was a great mother and loving companion to Wyatt the red panda. Maina came to the Tennessee Valley two years ago from Oklahoma City as part of the Species Survival Plan. She is survived by the zoo's two adult red pandas, Wyatt and Ruth, and her two unnamed male cubs.