Cincinnati Zoo says goodbye to Liwu, its 17-year-old red panda

Posted at 4:05 PM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 16:27:38-04

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Zoo’s retired red panda, Liwu, died on Aug. 10, senior Wildlife Canyon keeper Lissa Browning wrote on the zoo’s blog Wednesday.

Most zoo visitors probably didn’t know Liwu; at 17 years old, she was well past the life expectancy of red pandas and had been living in a specially-outfitted area off display.

Liwu always liked visitors, especially if they had food, Browning said. Grapes and bananas were her favorite treats, and she loved pulling sticks, bamboo and straw into her nest box.

Liwu's passing comes on the heels of the birth of a red panda cub. On June 25, the Cincinnati Zoo welcomed the 86th red panda born at the facility.

Though Liwu didn’t have offspring, she contributed to the conservation of her species by selling paintings. Liwu would dip her paws in paint and walk across canvases to create works of art. The thousands of dollars raised from her paintings went to the Red Panda Network and the Red Panda SSP.

As Liwu got older, zoo staff modified her holding area so she could move around easily. They installed ramps and built her a hammock on a frame to sleep in.

Browning said Liwu played an important role in the raising money for red panda conservation, and she was instrumental in teaching caretakers how to tend to an aging animal.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I won’t think about her and all she has done for her species and for me. It has been one of my greatest joys to work with her. She has given me many great memories to hold on to in the years to come without her,” Browning wrote.