Red panda dies at Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove

An animal in quarantine since arriving in B.C. is being studied for the source of an infection.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove announced on Saturday that a red male panda died Aug. 17.

Rakesh and his sibling Arun arrived from the Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg just over two months ago.

“A full necropsy was performed on Rakesh by an independent veterinary pathologist with the BC Animal Health Centre,” said manager Jody Henderson.

The results have confirmed that this is a case of pulmonary Blastomycosis. Blastomycosis is a disease caused by a fungus found in decaying organic matter such as wood and leaves.  Most cases are caused by inhalation of these fungal spores from a soil source, she said.

“As the animals were immediately quarantined – as required by AZA and CAZA protocols – and this disease does not typically occur in British Columbia it is most likely that Rakesh was infected before leaving Manitoba,” Henderson said.

The BC Center for Disease Control will be doing further testing to confirm the initial results.

The red pandas were art of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival program (SSP). The program helps the survival of species that are threatened or endangered in the wild by maintaining genetic diversity through managed breeding programs, she explained.

The two were quarantined on arrival at the zoo’s new facility and did not have exposure to the soil since their arrival.

“The care of Arun is our top priority right now and as a precaution, he is being treated by our veterinarian with medication while further tests are conducted,” she noted.

There are fewer than 10,000 red pandas left in the world due to habitat loss and poaching.

The zoo spent more than two years obtaining qualification to be part of the breeding program.

“Through population management and conservation efforts such as public education, research, reintroduction and field conservation programs that are supported by the SSP program we can assure a sustainable future for animals that are currently being threatened in the wild,” Henderson said.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo has been working with the Assiniboine Zoo, SSP veterinary advisor, and all other zoos in Canada and U.S. that have red pandas to share findings, understand the circumstances of Rakesh’s infection and ensure all have a healthy population of pandas, she said.

The announcement came on the weekend when the Aldergrove zoo was marking its 45th anniversary.

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