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Helmut Schmidt, Published May 20 2012

Red River Zoo celebrates birth of Sichuan takin

FARGO – The Red River Zoo is continuing its string of endangered species breeding success with the birth of a male Sichuan takin.

“We are one of the leading producers of these guys. They are rare,” zoo Executive Director Lisa Tate said of the goat-antelope.

“He’s just adorable. They’re just about the cutest thing ever,” Tate said Sunday.

The takin kid was born May 14 and is now on exhibit. He was born to Luan, an 11-year-old female on loan from the San Diego Zoo. The kid is 20 pounds and nursing well, Tate said.

Male Sichuan takin can grow to between 660 and 880 pounds, according to fact sheets posted online by zoos in San Diego and Seattle.

The father, Lailin, died of heart failure last fall. Lailin was born in 1998 and was one of the oldest male takin ever noted in captivity, Tate said.

The zoo has had a few takin born since the exhibit opened in 2002, Tate said, but she did not know the exact number.

Sichuan takin are found in the mountainous bamboo forests of the Himalayas and western China, sharing the same habitat as the giant panda, according to Conservation Centers for Species Survival.

The Chinese government considers the Sichuan takin a national treasure, along with the giant panda and the golden monkey.

In addition to Luan and her kid, the zoo has a female born last year, Tate said.

The Red River Zoo plans to hold a naming contest for the kid, and zoo visitors may vote for their favorite name through July 31, Tate said.

She said the zoo is seeking another breeding male through the Species Survival Plan. That process was started last year and the SSP is determining a match that is genetically compatible, Tate said.

In the wild, takin migrate to higher elevation alpine meadows in the summer months, then descend to lower altitudes during the winter, the Conservation Centers reports.

They are threatened by poaching and loss of habitat, Conservation Centers reports.

The zoo has also had success breeding Chinese red pandas. The most recent panda cubs were a set of triplets born in 2011.

The zoo is open daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583