Longleat keepers have created a love nest for their pair of red pandas in the run up to Valentine’s Day.

They’re hoping the romantic surroundings will encourage the couple to get in the mood for love.

Last year male Ajendra, which means ‘King of the mountain’ and female Rufina, meaning ‘Red-haired’, delighted staff at the Wiltshire wildlife attraction by giving birth to a rare pair of panda twins.

The new arrivals were doubly welcome as both Ajendra and Rufina are important members of the European Endangered Species Programme for the red panda due to their diverse genetics.

“We created a heart-shaped love nest, complete with red roses and their favourite red grapes, in their enclosure and we’re hoping it will do the trick,” said keeper Samantha Allworthy.

“Last year’s twins were only the second time the pair have bred here at Longleat and, as they have proved to be such attentive parents, it would be amazing if we were able to look forward to the patter of tiny paws later this year,” she added.

Like their famous, but unrelated, namesakes the giant pandas, red pandas remain under threat in the wild.

The species has been recently re-classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) meaning populations are continuing to decline.

An ‘endangered’ species is one which faces a very high risk of extinction in the near future.

Found in Nepal, Bhutan and China, they live among bamboo forests and spend much of their time in trees.

In the wild red pandas are solitary animals, and they only really ever come together to breed.

Like giant pandas about two-thirds of their food intake is made up of bamboo. Bamboo is not the most nutritious of foods so they have to eat a lot of it to survive.

As it is relatively low in calories, red pandas tend to spend much of their time either eating or sleeping.

Keepers also supplement their diet with a mix of fruits, eggs and the occasional insects along with a special type of bamboo cake which the pandas are especially fond of.

Issued by Longleat. For more information please contact Sally Boyce on 01985 845520