Endangered red pandas were seized earlier this month by authorities in Laos after a van was flagged to be smuggling the animals across the Chinese border. It sounds like something out of a sappy movie, but this actually happened IRL.
Six endangered red pandas were walked across the border on January 14 to avoid inspection before being placed in a van in Laos. They were discovered during a random inspection of the van and later handed over to the Provincial Office of Forestry Inspection, according to ABC Australia. The driver was arrested for breach of wildlife trafficking laws.
The six bears were taken in by the veterinary staff at the Laos-based Australian wildlife protection group, Free the Bears, where unfortunately three of the six pandas did not survive. The surviving pandas are said to be in good health.
"There is a high possibility these animals were suffering from serious disease due to the stress they suffered as well as potential exposure to infectious disease," vet nurse Michelle Walhout Tanneau said to ABC Australia.
There are as little as 10,000 red pandas left in the wild. "To our knowledge, this is the single largest seizure of live red pandas ever recorded anywhere in the world," Free the Bears regional communications manager Rod Mabin added.
Red Panda Facts
- Red pandas and giant pandas are not closely related, according to the National Zoo.
- Red pandas are the only living member of their taxonomic family Ailuridae.
- Like giant pandas, they are bamboo eaters.
- Unlike giant pandas, they are much smaller.
- They can become dormant in very cold temperatures.
- Red pandas may live as long as 23 years.
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