Natt Family Red Panda Pavilion breaks ground at zoo

Named for Easton donors who made it possible

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo has reached its challenge goal to build a new home for Rochan, the red panda, thanks to two substantial donations from Bob and Helen Natt of Easton, and a matching grant for monies raised by supporter donations from the Werth Family Foundation.

A groundbreaking Aug. 22 was attended by lead donors Bob and Helen Natt, with their  grandchildren Lillian, Sydney, Amber and Maxwell; Debbie Werth-Bachard from the Werth Family Foundation, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim, 138th District City Council Members Anthony R. Paoletto and Nessah J. Smith, board members and zoo staff.

“We really appreciate the opportunity to help the zoo,” Bob Natt said. “We’ve been members for almost 20 years. This zoo is one of Connecticut’s greatest assets. The new Red Panda Exhibit is the kind of endeavor we like to support.”

Natt is executive chairman of Alegeus, a Boston-area based healthcare technology company.

The new habitat will be located next to the pronghorn exhibit, where the donors lifted their golden shovels in a ceremony to kick off the beginning of construction.

Originally a temporary visitor while his exhibit at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, Mass. was undergoing renovations, Rochan later became a permanent member of the Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo family.

He has lived near the exit of the South American Rainforest Exhibit since October 2015. His new enlarged habitat will feature a yard landscaped with bamboo with plenty of treetop spots for sunbathing. Rochan eats approximately 1,000 bamboo leaves daily!

Hailing from the Himalayas and the mountain ranges of southwest China, red pandas prefer colder climates. The new habitat will have cool spaces to enjoy in the summer, and outdoor space to explore in the winter.

“The Red Panda exhibit will have a ramp going into the viewing platform with two views, one into the outdoor exhibit and one into a building where the pandas can be in air-conditioning in the hot weather,” Zoo Director Gregg Dancho said. “This will be named the Natt Family Red Panda Pavilion due to the Natt family’s extreme generosity.

“We’re also grateful to the Werth Family Foundation for their sizeable contribution. Donations from private funding make our expansion possible. We’ll start moving mountains here by first moving a little dirt,” he said, as the group hoisted their shovels full of soil, followed by applause.

Ganim also thanked the donors for their kindness and generosity to the zoo.  “This is a great zoo for Bridgeport, and the state,” he said.

Executive board member Sean-Michael Green reminded the crowd that Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is about education, conservation and research, and thanked the donors for their generosity on behalf of children in the state.

The Werth Family Foundation has repeatedly supported the zoo through generous grants. Some of the programs the foundation has underwritten include the Amur Leopard Exhibit, the Seasonal Country Fair Exhibit, and Zoo Educational Programs.

“Animal welfare and species survival are causes very close to our hearts,” Pam Werth said. “Our gifts to the zoo are designed to promote conservation and education, while enriching family and community recreational experiences.”

About red pandas

Red pandas resemble raccoons, are solitary animals, and are nocturnal by nature. Like their larger and better-known black and white cousins, red pandas primarily eat bamboo but will occasionally eat fruits, berries, young leaves, and certain tree bark.

Rochan, which means “light,” “brilliant,” and “celebrated” in Hindi, is three years old, and weighs nearly 15 pounds.

Red pandas are vulnerable in the wild, with fewer than 10,000 adult red pandas in existence. As a result, they are a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Program, which manages specific, typically threatened or endangered species populations.

Easton residents Bob and Helen Natt and their grandchildren at a groundbreaking Aug. 22 at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo for a new red panda habitat after making a substantial donation to fund its construction.

Easton residents Bob and Helen Natt and their grandchildren at a groundbreaking Aug. 22 at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo for a new red panda habitat after making a substantial donation to fund its construction.

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