Bandit, Henry Vilas Zoo’s new red panda, makes public debut

Bandit, the Henry Vilas Zoo’s new red panda, made his public debut Thursday.

The energetic two-year-old red panda spent Thursday getting used to his new surroundings. Eager visitors, including one with a red panda stuffed animal, watched as he ate berries fed to him by zoo manager Laura Weiner.

The process to bring him to the zoo began months ago, she said. After getting a recommendation from the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, it was determined Bandit was a good match to join Tai, the zoo’s current female panda.

Zoo staff from Madison picked him up from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and drove him to Wisconsin. After he arrived, he spent a month in quarantine before being introduced to the public.

“We’re really excited to have Bandit here. He’s a really active young guy; hopefully he’ll make a good habitat mate for Tai,” Weiner said.

So far, Tai is “not too excited” about her new companion yet, “but I think that’s how everyone is when you first meet someone new,” Weiner said with a laugh.

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