The Red Panda at the Henry Vilas Zoo passed away after living a successful 12 years, leaving the zoo community hopeful for a potential new panda birth soon[/media-credit]

Chang Tan, the red panda at Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo, passed away over the weekend after an extended fight with long-term ongoing medical issues.

Jeff Halter, deputy director at the zoo, said Tan was 12 years old and had lived in Henry Vilas Zoo since he arrived in Madison from Cincinnati in 2007.

Red pandas are a threatened species and are indigenous to China and Bhutan, Halter said.

Visitors to Henry Vilas Zoo remember Tan for the painting he did, according to Halter. Tan painted similarly to a kindergartener, and was given nontoxic paint to walk through and then stepped on paper, he added.

Halter said a lot of animals paint like this. He said he has heard of rhinos, penguins, alligators, snakes and elephants painting like this, but, some animals are better than others, he added.

Elephants are usually the best painters due to a high cognitive ability and the dexterity of their trunks, which gives them a better skill set, Halter said.

Tan is survived by two other red pandas at the zoo, Halter said.

Lum, a male red panda, and Tai, a female red panda, have been recommended for breeding by the Species Survival Plan, a group of zoos in North America banded together to ensure the genetic viability of species, Halter said.

Tai is not pregnant yet, but Henry Vilas Zoo hopes to have a baby red panda eventually, although they are unsure of when this will happen, he said.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Halter said. “We’re hoping.”

Halter said Henry Vilas Zoo is funded by the City of Madison, Dane County and Friends of the Zoo, which is private support the zoo receives. He said 80 percent of Vilas Zoo’s budget is funded by the county.