Word on the street is that the WNC Nature Center, which is undergoing major renovation work, is planning to add a red panda exhibit by fall of next year. The report is unconfirmed, but the addition of red pandas, as well as a number of other animal exhibits, is part of the Nature Center’s 2020 Vision plan for growth.
In 2015, the WNC Nature Center received a $313,000 grant to upgrade its entrance. That will allow the center to make other improvements, including the addition of parking and the development of a permanent butterfly exhibit.
In an article published by WNC Parent, a publication of the Asheville Citizen-Times, “special correspondent” Candace Thomson writes that red pandas are native to the southern Appalachian Mountains. “Fossils of Pristinailurus bristoli, or Bristol’s panda, have been found in the southern Appalachians. The red panda is believed to be the closest living relative of Bristol’s panda,” Thomson states.
The WNC Nature Center, which sees more than 100,000 visitors a year, with attendance growing each year, and is subsidized in part with taxpayer money. It is home to about 60 species and features a restaurant, a gift shop and an historic barn.