Adult red panda, Xiao-Li, dies at Binghamton Zoo

By Conor Mooney
By Perry Russom

January 9, 2014 Updated Jan 9, 2014 at 11:42 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Six-year-old adult red panda Xiao-Li has died at the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, according to zoo officials.

The red panda died Wednesday morning.

"Loss is an unfortunate part of our profession, but knowing that doesn't make this any easier," said Steven Contento, executive director a the Binghamton Zoo.

Officials took him to Cornell University in Ithaca where a necropsy will be performed.

"It's a tremendous unexpected blow to us so right now we are still assessing the facts and the operation itself," said Contento.

The cause of death is unknown, but zoo officials said it is not related to the recent cold temperatures because the exhibit is climate controlled.

"Anything we get out of it will be used to look at future breeding or husbandry requirements for these animals," said Dave Ordnoff, animal curator at the zoo.

The red panda showed signs of lymphoma back in 2012, but had appeared to have made a full recovery.

Xiao-Li was born in Nashville, Tenn. in 2008 and made his way to Binghamton in 2011 for mating purposes.

"Anytime you work with an animal of any kind, in a positive or negative situation, you're learning something. You always want to learn something," said Orndoff.

Xiao-Li was known for painting pictures with his paws.

The paintings would be sold at charity events with the proceeds benefiting the zoo.

He and female red panda Mei-Li are parents of male red panda Zhin-Li, who was scheduled to leave the Binghamton Zoo Friday for a zoo in Erie, Pa.

Those plans have been placed on hold due to the death.

"I think those who work particularly close with the pandas are taking it pretty hard," said Contento.

Zhin-Li was born in June 2013 as part of the Species Survival Plan and his move to Erie was part of the same plan.

Binghamton Zoo official say the Species Survival Plan was created by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to ensure the long-term survival of captive species.

Throughout zoos in the United States and Canada there are about 175 red pandas.

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