Omaha zoo’s first red panda in 20 years dies unexpectedly

Omaha zoo’s first red panda in 20 years dies unexpectedly
Tofu, a red panda at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, died unexpectedly Tuesday. (World-Herald News Service)

A red panda at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium died unexpectedly Tuesday.

Tofu, a 3-year-old female, arrived in Omaha in October as the zoo’s first red panda since 1997. She moved from a temporary space in the Cat Complex into the zoo’s new Asian Highlands exhibit earlier this year.

Zoo pathologist Dr. Alison Righton performed a necropsy on Tofu. On Wednesday, the zoo shared the findings.

Tofu had excess fluid in her abdomen and chest cavity. According to the zoo, that could indicate heart failure, cardiomyopathy or inflammation of the heart from bacteria or a virus.

Both heart failure and cardiomyopathy are known problems with red pandas.

In a statement, the zoo said it is saddened by the loss of the animal and it plans to work with other scientists to better understand Tofu’s health problems.

Red pandas are an endangered species, with fewer than 20,000 remaining in the wild. They live primarily in the Himalayan Mountains, from Nepal eastward east into China, and are expected to live about 12 to 14 years.

Tofu’s exhibit in the Asian Highlands included shade trees, misting fans and temperature-controlled artificial trees. Red pandas are the first species you see as you approach the new exhibit.

With the loss of Tofu, the zoo still has one male and one female red panda.

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