Safari park welcomes its first red panda - and visitors can stay the night to watch it

West Midland Safari Park now has a red panda for the first time, and visitors can hire a cottage overlooking the enclosure for a totally immersive experience.

Mei Lin, the Red Panda in the new exhibit at West Midlands Safari Park..
Mei Lin, the Red Panda in the new exhibit at West Midlands Safari Park..

A red panda, called Mei Lin, is now part of the vast range of wildlife and has already made an impression with delighted visitors to the West Midland Safari Park.

Although having only arrived a week ago, Mei Lin, which means beautiful forest, is already marking her territory in Red Panda Retreat.

The one-year-old female only arrived about seven days ago from the Welsh Mountain Zoo, located in Colwyn Bay, and has already settled into her new home by exploring and marking her territory.

Her enclosure has been designed to showcase her natural behaviour and includes stimulating enrichment environments such as nesting boxes, climbing structures, feeding platforms and bamboo.

The species of red panda can be found in Nepal and are endangered and Park wardens hope that after a suitable mate is found later this year that she will become part of a breeding programme.

Keeper Kyle Wingfield, aged 30, said: "She is settling in well to her new home but is still a little wary.

Mei Lin arrived from Welsh Mountain Zoo in July

"At the moment she is exploring every part of her new home."

Chris Kelly, managing director of the park, said: "She is just over 12-months-old and it was the perfect time for her to leave her mother.

"She will be ready to meet a mate in a month or so."

Although usual visitors can enjoy watching her antics, for some people it can become a totally immersive experience.

As the walls of two cottages look onto her enclosure and can be booked for £850 per night for up to five people including two days access to the Safari Park, with breakfast and dinner included and the use of wristbands for the amusement area.

Each two-storey cottage has an open plan living area downstairs, with lounge and dining spaces.

Interior of the brand new guest accommodation, which overlooks the red panda enclosure

A spiral staircase leads to two bedrooms, one with a super king bed and another with three singles. The double room also features a stunning free-standing copper roll-top bath, for guests to relax and take in their tranquil surroundings.

Window seats are also featured in every bedroom, from which guests can have an amazing view of the red panda right outside their window and watch the endangered species in her brand-new habitat.

Chris said: "Already the occupancy for the cottages is 85 per cent sold for this year.

"Our Cheetah and Elephant Lodges are also booked until November next year as we are offering such a unique experience.

The cottages have been renovated so people can stay the night

"The cottages and the Red Panda Retreat exhibit is all part of a £25 million development planned for the park and the aim of the whole thing is to improve the environment for the animals."

Creative designer Dave Powner, added: "We have worked with the wildlife teams and the council to try to retain part of the original structure of the former cottages."

Mei Lin’s new home has been designed to showcase her species’ natural behaviours, with stimulating and enriching environments such as nesting boxes, climbing structures, feeding platforms and bamboo.

She also has an air-conditioned panda house, in which keepers can perform medical checks and monitor her well-being up close if needed.

The open-air enclosure will give Mei Lin 24-hour access to both her indoor and outdoor spaces and also provides guests staying at the cottages round-the-clock viewing of her from their accommodation.

The new red panda enclosure at West Midland Safari Park

Project manager Neil James, said: "Everything has been designed as to close to the natural habitat as possible."

Chris Kelly, managing director, said: "Throughout the pandemic we have kept our wardens working and feeding the animals and the public have been absolutely behind us with the Red Panda Cottages already sold out to about Christmas."

In addition to the exhibit and cottages, the park has also invested in a brand-new retail store where guests can buy various red panda related gifts and souvenirs during their visit.

The shop is located next to Red Panda Retreat, within the Discovery Trail area of the Park.

Mei Lin will eventually be joined by a male red panda in the future, and it is the hope that the pair will go on to breed.

There are plans for a second red panda to join Mei Lin at some point

Red Pandas are naturally solitary animals that come together when it is breeding season; and the site’s wildlife team are thrilled to be working with the European Breeding Programme for red panda and its conservation efforts.

Chris said that he hoped that the new exhibit and cottage stays would help raise awareness of the importance of helping to conserve the species and help preserve their numbers in the wild.

Guests can now book their Red Panda Cottage stays via the park’s website, with selected dates still available in 2021.

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