From the top of the plane tree, Blaze takes in the panoramic view through her newly opened eyes.

The five-month-old red panda has taken no time braving the heights, but her twin sister, Amber, follows with more trepidation.

Perhaps Blaze is casing Auckland Zoo in the hope of following after her mother, Maya, the notorious escape artist.


After five months, the twin cubs have finally ventured out of the den and into their leafy enclosure within the zoo.

Now and then they fall out of the tree they share with Maya and their father, Shimla, who regards his fluffy offspring with nonchalance.

Maya made headlines a year ago, soon after Shimla moved in. She clambered out of her enclosure and spent eight hours on the run before being found fast asleep in a eucalyptus tree outside the zoo.

Her adventuring days are over now. She is absorbed by her babies, who are just learning to wrestle and chase each other.

But when they are nine months old and weaned, Blaze and Amber will move out - not of their own accord but to other zoos.

The pair are already very people-friendly. They perch on the shoulder of Trent Barclay, the zoo's senior carnivore keeper, as they nibble on grapes and sliced apple.

"We have handled them quite a bit since they were born, so they don't become like their dad. Shimla won't come anywhere near humans," said Mr Barclay.

The Himalayan red pandas are on the world's endangered species list. In Asia their bushy tails are sought after for feather dusters.


The pandas have a new, rare neighbour who moved in yesterday. Indlozi is a serval, a small African cat with a huge pounce.

The little spotted male, whose name means serval in Zulu, arrived from the Krefeld Zoo in Germany and has spent the past month in quarantine.

Immediately next door are two female servals, who it is hoped will become his future sweethearts.

Izazi and Mzimba, who moved to Auckland from New Plymouth, watched with just a pinch of interest yesterday as Indlozi warily took in his surroundings.

"They haven't called out to each other yet, but maybe he speaks a different language," Mr Barclay joked.

"Servals are not your usual long-tailed slinky cats. But with their long legs and pointy ears they look remarkably like the cat of ancient Egypt."

In the wild, servals are famous for their vertical jump - up to three metres - to catch unsuspecting prey.

Inside the zoo, Mr Barclay encourages the servals to leap, tempting them with a lure on a fishing line.