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Call for Belfast zoo to review security after panda cub escapes

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Amber the Red Panda back home after her big adventure

Amber the Red Panda back home after her big adventure

Photopress

A sighting in Newtownabbey

A sighting in Newtownabbey

Amber the Red Panda back home after her big adventure

Amber - the cheeky red panda who went on the run from Belfast Zoo - is to be reunited with her family later today.

The cute cub was found safe and well yesterday morning in Collinbridge, within a mile of the zoo's grounds.

A search operation involving zoo staff and the PSNI began on Sunday after the seven-month-old rare bear was first spotted by a member of the public at around 5.30pm.

The zoo is home to four red pandas - Chris and Vixen, and their twins Amber and Autumn.

On her return, Amber received a full health check from the zoo vet but remained in isolation overnight for observation.

Alyn Cairns, the zoo manager who caught Amber outside a house in Vaddegan Drive yesterday, said: "Staff had checked on the pandas at 3pm on Sunday for their third feed of the day and all was well.

"Later we got a call from a local resident who reported seeing one of the pandas in the area and then we realised that one of the cubs was missing.

"Luckily with the help of police and residents we were able to pinpoint her exact location to get her back. She had gone into a few gardens so we were able to close in on her there.

"Obviously she wasn't happy as she's quite feisty by nature but I think she was glad to get back."

The PSNI also shared a picture of Amber loitering on a driveway shortly before she was captured.

Mr Cairns says Amber's escape was down to a power fault in the electric fence surrounding the red panda habitat, which has since been repaired. "While we are delighted to have Amber back safe and sound, clearly we will have to review our security so this doesn't happen again," he added.

Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister has said the housing of animals at the zoo needs urgently reviewed.

She said: "While I recognise our zookeepers work diligently, we all know that lessons could be learned."

North Belfast Green Party representative Malachai O'Hara added: "Animal welfare is paramount and Belfast City Council need to take a serious look at Belfast Zoo and how it is operated."

While Amber is now safely back within the zoo grounds, she is destined for Sweden later this year as part of the red panda breeding programme, while twin sister Autumn is off to Germany.

Belfast Telegraph