Beardsley Zoo red panda ‘will be deeply missed’ after dying in her sleep
BRIDGEPORT — Meri, the 7-year-old red panda who had lived at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo since 2018, died Monday, due to a cardiac condition.
According to the zoo, an animal care team found that Meri had died in her sleep “with no obvious signs of distress.”
“Meri will be deeply missed by all of us here at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo,” said zoo director Gregg Dancho in a news release. “She had a unique personality and related well both to her companion, Rochan, and to her animal care staff. It has been our privilege to have known her for the past two years.
Born on June 27, 2013 at the Detroit Zoo, Meri came to Beardsley Jan. 11, 2018 from the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Del. She was named for Meriadoc Brandybuck, a character in J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
The zoo has another red panda, Rochan, a 6-year-old male who came to the zoo in October 2015.
Beardsley opened the Natt Family Red Panda Habitat opened in October 2018. The habitat offers viewing access for the red pandas, with air-conditioned indoor living quarters and a yard landscaped with bamboo and plenty of treetop spots for sunbathing.
Rochan and Meri were part of the Species Survival Program, a breeding and management program designed to preserve the long-term sustainability of captive-based animal populations.
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo will work with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to identify another female red panda as a new companion for Rochan.
Red pandas are not true pandas, and more closely resemble raccoons than the giant black and white creatures that share their names. They hail from the Himalayas and the mountain ranges of southwest China, and are nocturnal by nature. They primarily eat bamboo, but will occasionally eat fruits, berries, leaves and certain kinds of bark.
Like many of Beardsley’s animals, the red panda is threatened in the wild by territory loss and fragmentation, resource depletion, and are frequently hunted for their beautiful fur.