AN ENDANGERED red panda has been bred at Chester Zoo for the first time in more than 50 years.
The baby panda, called a kit, is the first for adult female Lushui, who came to Chester in 2002 and father, Pali, who arrived last year.
It is one of hundreds of new arrivals at the zoo in recent weeks, bringing the total number of animals to more than 7,000.
Staff are most excited about the hatching of two Javan rhinoceros hornbills, the first ever to be bred in captivity in the UK.
Cameras have been set up in both the chicks' and the panda's nesting boxes so visitors can follow their progress.
Other new arrivals include a Californian sealion pup and a bongo calf, which is a breed of cattle similar to an impala or antelope.
Also joining the throng is a new Asiatic lioness, eight-year-old Asha, who has joined Chester Zoo from Rome.
Mike Jordan, the zoo's curator of birds and mammals, said: "We have been working with hornbills for many years and this is the first time Javan rhinoceros hornbills have bred in the UK and, quite possibly, the first time in Europe.
"It is very unusual for this species to breed in zoos in the northern hemisphere and equally unusual to have two chicks fledge at the same time. "We have had a number of notable births recently which is testimony to the care afforded to our animals here at Chester Zoo."
The expertise of Chester Zoo's bird keepers extends beyond the perimeters and the zoo supports conservation work and provides expertise further afield, including work with hornbills in the Philippines, Thailand and South Africa.
Also away from Chester, the zoo supports the Chengdu Giant Panda reserve in China, a home for giant pandas, the larger cousins of Chester's endangered red pandas. Fewer than 2,500 red pandas are left in the wild. The nocturnal animals are not much bigger than a racoon and eat up to 200,000 bamboo leaves a day.
The as-yet-unnamed Californian sealion pup is the first for seven-year-old Rio who came to the zoo from Chessington in 2000.
Its father is eight-year-old Fernandez who came to Chester from Blackpool.
Bongos Nibbles and Ernie have also become parents for the first time with the birth of a female calf.
Asha the lioness will eventually become a partner for male lion Asoka. Asiatic lions are critically endangered in the wild, with just 300 left and are native to the Gir forests in India.
Mr Jordan added: "Asha is a very feisty lioness and, we hope that in time, she will become a partner for our lion Asoka.
"Introducing the two is going to be a slow process but, as the most successful zoo for breeding Asiatic lions, we are hopeful of the end results."
Chester Zoo is open daily from 10am. For visiting times, call 01244 380280 or visit www. chesterzoo.org