Wisconsin zoo mourns death of Tarrei, a 19-year-old red panda

MADISON, Wis. — A zoo in Wisconsin is mourning the death of its “iconic” red panda.

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Tarrei, a 19-year-old male, died Monday, the Henry Vilas Zoo announced in a news release.

The animal, who was born in Japan, was the second oldest male red panda in captivity at the time of his death, zoo officials said. In the wild, the life span for red pandas is eight to 14 years.

Tarrei was being treated for arthritis, deteriorating eyesight and other age-related conditions, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“This is absolutely heartbreaking,” Tara Lee, Tarrei’s primary keeper, said in a statement. “I’ve loved taking care of him for the last five years and I am going to miss him terribly.”

“Tarrei was one of our most iconic residents,” Zoo Deputy Director Joseph Darcangelo said in a statement. “He made visitors smile with his inquisitive nature. He was adored by many of our guests and was a true ambassador for his wild counterparts.”

Tarrei was born at the Tohoku Safari Park in Nihonmatsu, Japan and was brought to the Wisconsin zoo in 2015, WTMV-TV reported.

The Henry Vilas Zoo now houses Tai, a 13-year old female red panda, zoo officials said.

Tarrei and Tai lived together in an enclosure but did not have any offspring together, Kristin Moala, the zoo’s marketing manager, told the State Journal.

“Since red pandas are solitary animals in the wild, we may not get another red panda for a while, or they could determine that we are a good site for another male,” Moala told the newspaper. “It’s too soon for us to know what the recommendation will be.”