On August 10th the Wildlife Canyon staff had to say goodbye to longtime resident Liwu. Liwu, a red panda, lived at the Zoo since 2007 and, at 17 years old, was well past the median life expectancy for her species. Most Zoo visitors probably didn’t know her, as she hasn’t been out in the red panda habitat for several years. She has been in retirement in a specially-outfitted behind the scenes area.
I have worked with Liwu since the day she came to the Cincinnati Zoo and have had the privilege to watch her change and grow over the years. When she first came to us she was overweight, and a very good beggar with her puppy dog eyes. It took some time to get the weight off of her. She wasn’t able to climb trees because of her size but as the weight came off she found a whole new world and was back up in the trees. She was never a great climber and didn’t ever really go too far up in the trees. You could usually find her in the small Mulberry tree in the back of her yard.
Liwu was always happy to see you, especially if you brought food. On many occasions she would be waiting at the door for her next meal. Sometimes she would even help you open the door. She was always happy to visit with new people but she would let you know when she was done by walking outside to her nest box. She loved pulling sticks, bamboo, and straw into her nest boxes. Sometimes you would catch her in the middle of filling her box and she would look up at you with a mouthful of straw. If you had food she would spit it out and come greet you for her treat. Grapes and bananas were her favorites. Sometimes we would hide her treats in bags, boxes, toys, and other things she had to manipulate in order to get her treats. It was entertaining to watch her with her enrichment and it was good for her well being.
She never had any offspring of her own but was a companion for many of the cubs that stayed with her before being sent to other Zoos. She taught them many lessons, one being how to get along with another red panda that wasn’t their mother. She was also a teacher to her keeper staff. She and I learned together how to train for voluntary ultrasounds. She was the first red panda to master this behavior that helped us determine red panda pregnancy. She taught us how to care for an aging animal. As she grew older we had to modify her holding area to help her reach her nest box. We installed ramps to help her move around better. We also gave her a hammock on a frame that she could sleep in if she didn’t want to get up to her box.
Liwu liked to paint and walked across many canvases that we later sold in the Zoo’s gift shop to raise funds for conservation. We both ended up covered in paint many times! It was a messy activity. She put her paint-covered paws on my legs so many times that all of my pants have at least one foot print on them.
Liwu was not able to genetically contribute to her species but she was able to contribute in many other ways to help other red pandas. Since she started painting in 2011 she has raised thousands of dollars for red panda conservation and education. The money raised from her paintings has gone to the Red Panda Network and to the Red Panda SSP. She was also part of the Endangered Excursions behind the scenes tour at Wildlife Canyon. Guests were able to meet her first hand and see her paint. I think it would be safe to say that most of the guests who met her fell in love with her! Maybe she didn’t have the big fluffy tail that younger red pandas have but she made up for it with her personality and adorable face.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I won’t think about her and all she has done for her species and for me. It has been one of my greatest joys to work with her. She has given me many great memories to hold on to in the years to come without her. (She is probably the only red panda to have gotten a car for her 16th birthday!) She has touched so many people’s lives and her legacy will live on for many years.
37 thoughts on “Remembering Liwu”
Red pandas are my favorite animal.
Thank u so much for sharing the memories
It’s, always so sad to have our fur friends pass on. They really are quite innocent non judgmental companions who steal our hearts with their antics, sweetness, cleverness and of course cuteness. Rest in Peace little Liwu.
She is beautiful. So sorry for your loss. It’s like losing a child.
So glad I met her last winter! She was adorable!
You wrote your tribute with such love. Just the little things you noted about Liwu speak volumes about the love and devotion and respect you had for her. Thank you for sharing a beautiful story and for caring so lovingly for Liwu.
Sitting here with tears in my eyes. That was so beautifully written truly *from the heart*. You are an incredible human being, Lissa Browning. God bless you for making Liwu’s life special!
I am so sorry to hear the news. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story about Liwu’s life.
Crying my eyes out but what a beautifully written tribute to your friend.
So sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute
I am so sorry for your and the zoo’s loss. She will continue to live in the hearts of all who knew her.
What a beautiful tribute to a very sweet little being. Thank you all for the time you spent with her, and for all your love and dedication. Again Cincinnati Zoo has proven what a loving, caring staff they have. RIP LIWU.
I meet her twice on the encounters and still have my paintings. She was indeed a sweetie and I’m so sorry for your loss.
What a lovely tribute. I’m so sorry for your loss.
What a sweet face. Thanks for loving her and caring for this amazing animal into her senior years.
Aww…I love Red Pandas and am very sad to hear this news. I know it is especially hard on the zoo team that tended to her. Prayers for all!
Beautifully written. Such incredible love. THanks for making the world a better place, little Liwu! You will not be forgotten
OMG Liwu is so cute. What a wonderful tribute. I’m sure she will be greatly missed by all. The Cincinnati Zoo Care Teams do an amazing job. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful and rewarding life you shared with this beautiful red panda! I am so sorry for the loss of your Liwu friend. I am glad you are already letting dear memories ease your loss. Many thanks for taking such good care of her and giving her a rich and full life.
What a beautiful eulogy for Liwu. It tells the story of love and respect between species that seems to characterize the care for all the animals at the Cincinnati Zoo. And the picture of Liwu in her 16th birthday car is one never to be forgotten!
What a beautiful tribute to Liwu. I am sorry for your loss, I know how hard it is, there’s a hole in your heart.
Sorry for your loss of your red panda of Liwu.
So sorry for your loss. I may not have met her but your beautiful words and portraits especially the stunning last one have helped me to feel what an amazing spirit she had. Your work w/ her blessed her w/ a long life and you with beautiful memories. May your family and coworkers who know the love and care you gave little Lieu be a comfort to you now. Thank you for this lovely remembrance.
You must be grieving this loss. She was a special panda. I’ve always taken special delight in watching the red pandas over the years. She will be missed.
You can tell the love you had for her… Your tribute to her is just beautiful like she was… God bless you all
Beautifully written. The love you have for Liwu shines through in your words. So sorry for your, and the Zoo’s, loss. RIP Liwu
Wonderful story. Especially loved that she left painted paw prints on your pants!
Wonderful tribute! She was adorable! You have me crying now! 🙁
We got to meet her in 2015 and have a piece of art she created for us hanging in our home…the only red panda I had the chance to pet…so sad to hear she is gone…
Sorry for your (our!) loss. Thank you for the post.
This was a very eloquently written obituary for a very loved red panda! So terribly sorry to hear of the loss of such a wonderful furry friend. May everyone be at ease and be happy that they spent that time on Earth with her. She sounded like quite a character. I smiled. I cried. What a beautiful story of a vibrant life of one of Gods creatures.
Thank you for telling us about Liwu. Thank you for showing us your care for her. What a lovely face she had and what a great life she led over the last 10 years. Xx
I also had to say goodbye to a 17 year old companion, Sammy the wonder dog, a three-legged rat terrier, this month.
Loss is never easy. Be gentle with yourself and know that your tribute was lovely. Thank you for sharing.
So sad that she is gone. She was loved and she knew it. RIP beautiful girl you gave so many pleasure.
Sorry for your loss of Liwu. Liwu will be missed.
I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s very clear that love is not limited from one human to another.
Our animals have always been rescues, and our rescues alwasy save us too.
Very beautiful memorial for lovely Liwu. We are so sorry for this loss. She will be greatly missed.