Alana Kardon


Alana Kardon

My ultimate dream of meeting a red panda was realized in 2015 when my husband and I visited New Zealand's Auckland Zoo. I cannot describe the joy I felt in that moment, but it was so profound that, since then, I have been trying to find a way to devote a portion of my life to these amazing animals. While on a roadtrip with my sister and our children this spring, a crazy idea came to me--I would find every red panda in the continental United States and I would visit them. Part of this project will be research and interviews to learn as much as I can about how the red pandas are faring in captivity. I want to know why certain zoos have had success with breeding and I want to know how zoo conservation efforts are affecting the wild populations of red pandas in Asia. After I have visited the 54 zoos in the United States that house red pandas, I hope to travel to Nepal to observe these amazing animals in their natural habitat. Finally, at the end of this ambitious journey, I want to create a book that brings the stories of the red pandas to the public at large.

North America » United States » Massachusetts » Boston October 17th 2017

I spent a lot of time going back and forth trying to decide if I would write one incredibly long blog post about all 7 zoos we visited on this leg of the pilgrimage or devoting one post each to each day of the trip. In the end, I have decided to spare you all my longwindedness (is that even a word? Well it is now). You're welcome. I have to say I really outdid myself this time. Seriously, y'all, I rocked the planning of this trip. We had 7 days to see 7 zoos, but instead of spreading them out to 1 each day, I managed to squeeze them all in on 4 days and gave the husband and child 2 days of "vacation" So yeah, nailed it. We began in Boston at the Franklin ... read more
Nature's Neighborhood
Nature's Neighborhood
Fia and Hoppy

North America » United States » Colorado » Pueblo September 18th 2017

Imagine, if you will, that it is September in South Texas. If this is difficult for you to do, let me paint a picture: a humid, 90 plus degrees Fahrenheit picture that has mosquitoes crawling all over it. Now that you have that picture in your mind, imagine you had the opportunity to escape to the mountains for a weekend. There is one catch to this, of course--you will have to drive 12 hours to get there and then another 12 to get back home before you have to go to work on Monday. Still sound appealing? Damn straight it does. For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, you probably remember my map. Maybe I should capitalize that to be THE MAP. This is the map that I have created to ... read more
Leela and Yanhua

North America » United States » California January 9th 2017

We finally made it to California on the latest leg of the Pilgrimage. As you may know, our last attempt to get to the Golden State was a complete failure, but I am so happy to report that the second time was the charm! That being said, we did not have the opportunity to visit all of the zoos on our original itinerary, but we did get four zoos closer to the goal of seeing all of the zoos housing red pandas in the United States. So how did they measure up? It's funny you should ask because it seemed like all the people I spoke to on this trip wanted to know the exact same thing! If there is one common thread that holds together the four zoos we visited, it would have to be ... read more

North America » United States » Texas » Houston October 9th 2016

This week took us to the Houston Zoo to meet brother and sister Take' and Li Ming. Take' has been at the zoo for a while longer than his sister, but doesn't seem to mind her moving in. While at the zoo, we had the opportunity to meet two of the keepers who work with the red pandas, Priscilla and Paul, and one of the supervisors of the Natural Encounters Department, Kamryn. They took us behind the scenes just before feeding time so that was an added bonus as well! While visiting with Take' and Li Ming, we learned a little about the pair and their lives at the Houston Zoo. In case you missed it, Houston is in Texas which means it gets hot. No, let me clarify. It gets HOT and HUMID. Not the ... read more

North America » United States » Kansas » Garden City September 19th 2016

I'm back at it again and this time took the Pilgrimage to Kansas to celebrate International Red Panda Day, or IRPD. I have to say that the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, was well worth the 10 plus hour drive. Did I mention I have a 5 year old? Still worth it. The day started around 10:30 a.m. when we arrived in Garden City. We headed straight to the zoo so we could explore as a family before the event was set to begin at 1. We spent about an hour and a half walking around before taking a break for lunch. So before I get to the IRPD celebration, I have got to explain some of the layout of this zoo because it was probably my favorite thing ... read more

North America » United States » Texas July 7th 2016

The next leg of my pilgrimage is set for the first week of November, but I am thinking about what to do for International Red Panda Day (IRPD) in September. Since the closest red pandas are in Houston, I plan on reaching out to their zoo to discuss what (if anything) they have planned for September 17, 2016. I hope to participate in whatever activities they have going on that day and offer my services to help with outreach and the like. I have had a nice break after my first excursion on this adventure, but I am ready to get back out there and meet the red pandas! As for November, I will be traveling to the West Coast to visit all of the zoos with red pandas in California as well as the zoo ... read more

North America » United States » Delaware » Wilmington June 6th 2016

As a last minute addition to my itinerary, I visited the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Delaware this morning and I am so glad I did! This zoo was not on my original list, but I added it when someone on my facebook page pointed out it was missing. I also didn't think I would have time to do a fifth zoo as today we are heading back home, but it all worked out time-wise and I am pleased to say I ended the first leg of my Red Panda Pilgrimage with such a special little place. The Brandywine Zoo is located in the heart of Brandywine Park in Wilmington. The zoo was established over a hundred years ago and has seen many changes over its long history, but much of the grounds are historical, therefore must ... read more
Talking with Sharon and Lynn

Today was all about the Philadelphia Zoo. I was lucky enough to have a great tour guide in Donna who allowed me access to a behind the scenes area to meet an almost 2 year old male red panda named Khumbie and his keeper, Christina O'donnell. Khumbie is a very sweet boy who came this past winter from the Erie Zoo and is getting ready to be introduced to one of the Philadelphia Zoo's other red pandas, Spark, as a breeding partner. Spark currently has two cubs who are about a year old and getting ready to be moved to other zoos. The zoo also has two older females on exhibit, Mei Lin and JJ who are both around 14 years of age. These red pandas can be seen on exhibit in Carnivore Kingdom, a rock ... read more
Zoo Keeper Christina speaking with me (featuring Khumbie)
Khumbie and his favorite biscuits

North America » United States » New York » New York » Bronx June 3rd 2016

Well, I completely underestimated the massiveness of the Bronx Zoo. I had always heard it was the best NYC zoo, but wow. We arrived sometime after lunch and stayed until closing and still did not even get to half of the park. Of course, I immediately booked it to the red pandas when we entered. They have a really neat set up so that you can see red pandas two different ways. The first is at the Wild Asia Monorail. This attraction gives a scenic look of the southwest area of the park and provides visitors with views of lots of Asian deer species, a tiger, rhino, elephant, horses, babirusa, peacocks/hens, and ends with a view of the red pandas. This was a very cool way to see exhibits in a beautiful part of the park ... read more

North America » United States » New York » New York June 2nd 2016

So the day started a bit slowly on account of being unfamiliar with the area around our hotel, which is just a nice way of saying we got lost trying to find a bagel for breakfast. We finally arrived at the Prospect Park Zoo around 11:30 and we booked it to the red panda exhibit. When we got there, I saw a red panda run out of my field of vision immediately. There were a lot (and I mean A LOT) of school groups at the zoo today so I was nervous the screaming children were responsible for spooking the poor guy. It only took a few minutes for me to realize that this red panda was completely oblivious to the crowds and just genuinely liked running around his enclosure. I kept gawking at this behavior ... read more
Bo, Prospect Park Zoo
Central Park Zoo
Bo, Prospect Park Zoo

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