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Press Release

Henry Vilas Zoo Statement on the Loss of Red Panda Tarrei

December 21, 2021

We are heartbroken to announce the death of our 19-year old male red panda, Tarrei, who died on December 20, 2021. Tarrei was the second oldest male red panda in managed care at the time of his death. In the wild, the life span for red pandas is eight to 14 years.

“Tarrei was one of our most iconic residents,” said Zoo Deputy Director Joseph Darcangelo. “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.”

As a geriatric animal, Tarrei was cared for by the Zoo’s animal care team as well as veterinarians from the University of Wisconsin – School of Veterinary Medicine. He had been under a comprehensive treatment plan for age-related health ailments including arthritis and deteriorating eyesight.

Over the last week, he began experiencing some difficulty navigating around his enclosure and started showing signs of respiratory distress. A CT scan showed that he had a build-up of fluid around his heart and lungs. The difficult decision to humanely euthanize him was made after consultation with his care team. He passed away surrounded by love with his animal care team present.

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

Tarrei was born at the Tohoku Safari Park in Nihonmatsu, Japan. He was moved to Henry Vilas Zoo under the Red Panda Species Survival Plan in 2015. Henry Vilas Zoo has set up a table near the red panda exhibit where guests can make cards or leave condolence messages for Tarrei. The table will be up through the end of the year.

Henry Vilas Zoo now houses Tai, a 13-year old female red panda. Red pandas are solitary animals in the wild and the Zoo will work with the Species Survival Plan on next steps.

Red pandas are endangered and their populations are declining in the wild. Henry Vilas Zoo works with the Red Panda Network, a non-profit whose mission is to protect red pandas and their habitat. In 2021, Henry Vilas Zoo was able to raise $3,190 for red pandas through our Red Panda Conservation Awareness Day and through our membership program.