Three Times the Fluff: Triplet red pandas born at John Ball Zoo

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - John Ball Zoo is happy to announce the birth of red panda triplets. The triplet cubs were born June 25, 2020 to parents Wyatt and Wasabi. 

These cubs are the first for Wasabi, with Wyatt having fathered two cubs in 2016 while at Chattanooga Zoo. Like red pandas in the wild, and as long as mom and cubs keep doing well, the cubs will spend their first several weeks in the maternity den bonding with Wasabi. JBZ will also perform the cubs’ first neonatal exam, provide the first vaccinations, and determine the gender of the cubs.

This red panda birth is very exciting and significant for John Ball Zoo and the red panda species. Red pandas are endangered and it is believed there are less than 2,500 adult red pandas left in the wild. 

The cub’s parents, Wasabi and Wyatt, have been matched as part of the Red Panda Species Survival Program (SSP). The SSP is one of the Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s many conservation programs. The SSP’s primary role is to serve as a breeding program for selected endangered or threatened species. The goal is to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse population for these animals in order to increase their numbers. 

John Ball Zoo also has a partnership with the Red Panda Network’s Forest Guardians initiative. Forest Guardians (FGs) are local people living in the regions of the Himalayan Mountains who are paid to monitor and protect red panda habitat, as well as educate communities. The payment they receive supports their families and their experience as a FG helps them build capacity for sustainable income and environmental stewardship. Poverty makes life very difficult for the rural communities in red panda range. The people there are not able to make wildlife conservation a priority when they are struggling to feed and warm themselves. These community-based programs provide sustainable livelihoods while fostering environmental stewardship.

These include improved cookstoves, organic farming, sustainable herding, microenterprises and nature-guide training. The forest guardians work within their own communities to create a Community Forest Network, which empowers local people to protect their forests.

As an accredited organization with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), John Ball Zoo participates in 50 different Species Survival Plans (SSP). There are over 450 total SSP programs created to cooperatively manage species that are threatened or endangered. Each program is managed by an advisory group made up of animal experts. SSP programs not only help to manage animal populations in human care but also help contribute to field conservation efforts, species recovery, and veterinary care for wildlife diseases. 

As Wasabi and the cubs remain behind the scenes bonding for several weeks, John Ball Zoo will keep the community updated on social media, including Facebook at and Instagram at 

John Ball Zoo is now open for the 2020 season. Members, non-members and MI Bridges cardholders can reserve their timed tickets online prior to their arrival by visiting If you have any questions, you are encouraged to call (616) 336-4300.

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