Rhode Island Zoo Announces Death of Resident Red Panda, Sha-Lei

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Peter Hardin/Taronga Zoo via Getty Images)

Sad news out of Rhode Island. The Rogers Williams Zoo announced on Tuesday (October 4th) that its red panda Sha-Lei passed away. The animal was recently diagnosed with heart failure. 

In a Facebook post, the Roger Williams Zoo shared more details about the red panda’s passing. “It is with the deepest sadness that the Zoo announces the passing of our beloved female red panda, Sha-Lei. Born on June 13, 2009, she first arrived at Roger Williams Park Zoo in January 2013.”

The Roger Williams Zoo stated that the red panda uplifted and sintered all that met her through behind-the-scene encounters and guest experience programs. “While we mourn her loss, her impact on our world is unmistakable, and unforgettable.”

Speaking about the care that the red panda received after being diagnosed with heart failure, the zoo explained that heart failure is considered a common cause of death among the species. “Thanks to the dedication and care of her keepers and veterinary department, despite her advanced age, Sha-Lei’s heart failure was well managed. She exceeded the life expectancy that cardiac specialists provided during her last exam.”

The Zoo then shared that Sha-Lei’s male companion, Rusty, continues to do well in his advanced age. The staff is continuing to monitor him and his behavior. “The Zoo family will hold a very special place in its heart for Sha-Lei and she will be deeply missed.”

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, the species may live as long as 23 years. They also show symptoms of age at around 12 to 14 years old. Although females stop breeding after 12 years, males are able to still reproduce. 

Red Pandas Are On the Endangered Species List 

WWF reveals that red pandas are considered endangered species. This is due to the species having less than 10,000. The organization reports that it is monitoring the species and their habitats in Nepal and Bhutan. 

“In 2011, our work helped the government in the Indian state of Sikkim declare that the state held an estimated 300 red pandas,” WWF explained. The organization said it examines the feasibility of reintroducing the species to create populations in identified states within Sikkim. 

WWF went on to explain why the species’ numbers are reducing significantly. “Red pandas are often killed when they get caught in traps meant for other animals such as wild pigs and deer. They are also poached for their distinctive pelts in China and Myanmar. Red panda fur caps or hats have been found for sale in Bhutan.”

Furthermore, it was noted that any person who is guilty of killing, buying, or selling red pandas in Nepal faces a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 10 years in jail.