A PAIR of endangered red panda cubs at Chester Zoo have been spotted emerging from their den for the first time.

The rare twins - named Huo Hu, meaning ‘Firefox’, and Tiang Tang, meaning ‘Heaven’ - were born in June.

After staying tucked up in nest boxes for several months - with mum Nima and dad Koda - they have now been photographed exploring their outside habitat at the zoo.

Knutsford Guardian:

Classed by conservationists as endangered in the wild, red pandas are found in the mountainous regions of Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and southern China.

Their number is estimated at fewer than 10,000 – a 40 per cent decline in just 50 years.

Chester Zoo conservationists are part of a Europe-wide breeding programme for the species, aimed at boosting numbers for the species.

Knutsford Guardian:

Andrew Mckenzie, deputy curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, said: “Red pandas are the most incredible, beautiful species, but they’re under serious threat in the wild from human activity.

“Widespread habitat destruction, trapping for the illegal pet trade and poaching for fur have led to a rapidly decreasing population.

"A world without red pandas is simply unthinkable, so the European breeding programme for the species is increasingly important. That’s what makes these new arrivals even more special to us.

“Thankfully, our little male Huo Hu and his sister Tiang Tang are thriving. After snuggling up in their nest boxes over summer, they’re now looking big and strong. They’re ready to explore!”

Knutsford Guardian:

In recent years, Chester Zoo has been fighting for the future of the red panda through habitat-focused conservation projects in the Sichuan Mountains of China, where the pandas can be found among the bamboo forests.

Conservationists at Chester Zoo have called on the public help to fight the illegal wildlife trade that is driving species to extinction around the world. People can report any suspicious activity they may spot, online or on holiday, via the zoo’s online illegal wildlife trade reporting form at www.chesterzoo.org/illegalwildlifetrade.

Knutsford Guardian: