John Ball Zoo Announces Red Panda Pregnancy

John Ball Zoo is excited to announce that their nearly 4 year old female red panda Wasabi is pregnant, through natural breeding with their male red panda Wyatt.

This pregnancy will be the first for expectant mother Wasabi, with Wyatt having fathered two cubs in 2016 while at Chattanooga Zoo. The Zoo’s veterinary staff will continue to closely monitor Wasabi’s pregnancy. Red pandas have an estimated gestation between 4-5 months. It is estimated Wasabi will give birth in late June or early July.

“We are thrilled at how Wyatt and Wasabi’s cub will be an important part of their conservation as a species,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo. “John Ball Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan for the red panda. Red pandas are endangered and it is believed there are less than 2,500 adult red pandas left in the wild. This is mainly due to the loss of wild places and destruction of bamboo forests. Not only are we proud to participate in the SSP, but of our partnership with the Red Panda Network’s Forest Guardians initiative.”

Forest Guardians (FGs) are local people living in the regions of the Himalayan Mountains who are paid to monitor and protect red panda habitat, as well as educate communities. The payment they receive supports their families and their experience as an FG helps them build capacity for sustainable income and environmental stewardship. Poverty makes life very difficult for the rural communities in red panda range. The people there are not able to make wildlife conservation a priority when they are struggling to feed and warm themselves. These community-based programs provide sustainable livelihoods while fostering environmental stewardship.

These include improved cookstoves, organic farming, sustainable herding, microenterprises and nature guide training. The forest guardians work within their own communities to create a Community Forest Network, which empowers local people to protect their forests.

“Red pandas are endangered and their survival continues to decline in the wild,” added D’Arienzo. “Wasabi’s pregnancy and anticipated birth is significant for John Ball Zoo and crucial for the red panda species.”

As an accredited organization with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), John Ball Zoo participates in 50 different Species Survival Plans (SSP). There are over 450 total SSP programs created to cooperatively manage species that are threatened or endangered. Each program is managed by an advisory group made up of animal experts. SSP programs not only help to manage animal populations in human care but also help contribute to field conservation efforts, species recovery, and veterinary care for wildlife diseases.

John Ball Zoo will keep the community updated through posts of the pregnancy and birth on social media, including Facebook at and Instagram at

John Ball Zoo is now open for the 2020 season. Members, non-members and MI Bridges cardholders can reserve their timed ticket online prior to their arrival by visiting If you have any questions, you are encouraged to call (616) 336-4300.

John Ball Zoo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation founded in 1891 and located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Guided by the four core values of Conservation, Education, Community and Celebrate, John Ball Zoo accomplishes the mission to inspire our community to be actively engaged in the conservation of wildlife and our natural environment.