Beardsley Zoo breaks ground on new home for Red panda

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo has reached its challenge goal to build a new home for Rochan, the Red panda, thanks to two substantial donations from Bob and Helen Natt of Easton, and a matching grant for monies raised by supporter donations from the Werth Family Foundation.

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo board members, Zoo staff, Founding Level supporters, Greg Raucci of Bismark Construction and representatives from Bridgeport’s mayor’s office will gather for a groundbreaking event of the Zoo’s newest habitat on Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 11 a.m.

Originally a temporary visitor while his exhibit at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, Mass., was undergoing renovations, Rochan became a permanent member of the Zoo family. He has resided near the exit of the South American Rainforest Exhibit since October, 2015.

“We’re so grateful to Bob and Helen for their extremely welcome donation. Their generous gift allows us to break ground and begin construction on the Natt Family Red Panda Pavilion, a significant addition to Connecticut’s only zoo,” said Gregg Dancho, zoo director.

“Our heartfelt thanks also to the Werth Family Foundation. Their generosity provided a challenge grant, critical to our successful fundraising efforts. Finally, we thank our members and supporters who donated another $75,000 to reach our goal.”

Bob and Helen Natt, longtime members of the Zoo, are devoted to supporting Zoo growth and development. Naming rights for the Pavilion were awarded in gratitude for their substantial donation. “Providing for the future of the unique and beautiful animals at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is something the entire family supports,” said Mr. Natt.  Bob Natt is Executive Chairman of Alegeus, a Boston area based healthcare technology company.

The Werth Family Foundation has repeatedly supported the Zoo through generous grants. Some of the programs they have underwritten include the Amur Leopard Exhibit, the Seasonal Country Fair Exhibit, and Zoo Educational Programs. “Animal welfare and species survival are causes very close to our hearts,” said Pam Werth. “Our gifts to the Zoo are designed to promote conservation and education, while enriching family and community recreational experiences.”

The new Red Panda habitat will feature a yard landscaped with bamboo — (Rochan eats approximately 1,000 bamboo leaves daily) — with plenty of treetop spots for sunbathing. Hailing from the Himalayas and the mountain ranges of southwest China, Red pandas prefer colder climates. The new habitat will have cool spaces to enjoy in the summer, and outdoor space to explore in the winter.

About Red pandas

Red pandas resemble raccoons, are solitary animals, and are nocturnal by nature. Like their larger and better-known black and white cousins, Red pandas primarily eat bamboo but will occasionally eat fruits, berries, young leaves, and certain tree bark. Rochan, which means “light,” “brilliant,” and “celebrated” in Hindi, is three years old, and weighs nearly 15 pounds.

Red pandas are vulnerable in the wild, with fewer than 10,000 adult Red pandas in existence. As a result, they are a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Program (SSP), which manages specific, typically threatened or endangered species populations.