John Ball Zoo’s red panda debuts to public Saturday

Wyatt, a red panda coming to John Ball Zoo in 2017. (Courtesy: John Ball Zoo)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — John Ball Zoo visitors, get ready: Wyatt the red panda will make his public debut when the zoo opens Saturday morning.

Wyatt is John Ball Zoo’s first red panda.

Thursday, Maranda got a sneak peek of him exploring his new home.

Wyatt will be living in the Forest Realm habitat at the top of the waterfall, according to zoo officials. He will seek relief from West Michigan’s warm summer months in an air conditioned indoor area complete with climbing structures and running water.

Wyatt made the trip from the Chattanooga Zoo to Grand Rapids recently, after John Ball Zoo announced he was coming in July.

Although red pandas mostly eat bamboo, zoo workers say Wyatt’s favorite foods include grapes and green peppers.

Red pandas are considered endangered, with fewer than 10,000 still living in the wild because of habitat loss, poaching and the pet trade. The average life span for a red panda is 8 to 10 years in the wild and 13 to 15 years in captivity. Wyatt is 5 years old and weighs about 10 pounds.

Although they are solitary animals, Red pandas are considered one of the world’s most adored animals, according to the John Ball Zoo. That may explain why red pandas, also known as firefox, have a web browser named after them.

John Ball Zoo at 1300 W. Fulton Street will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.