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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 11:01 GMT
Red panda boosts visitor numbers
Birmingham's red panda
The pandas were brought in from Bristol Zoo in March 2005
A red panda who sparked a huge hunt when he escaped from his nature reserve has boosted visitor numbers to his Birmingham home.

Babu, one of a pair of pandas at the reserve, spent four days on the loose in November before being found in a nearby tree.

Since then visitor numbers at the reserve in Cannon Hill Park have increased by more than 250 per day.

His popularity led to a website naming him as Brummie of the Year.

Babu and his brother, Tensing, have proved to be popular attractions since they moved into the park at the beginning of 2005.

Geoff Cole, Assistant Director for parks, sports and events at Birmingham City Council said:

"Visitor figures have risen significantly at the nature centre since Babu's disappearance and recapture last year

"Following his return to the nature centre on 2 November last year visitor figures for that month were 3,979 which was an increase of over 1,000 from the same period in 2004, approximately 130 extra per day.

"Visitor figures have continued to be healthy and last Saturday the 754 paying attendants was double that of the same Saturday last year."

The reserve is only open at the weekend.

Red pandas are similar to racoons and tend to live high up in trees, feeding on bamboo.

They are a rare breed and there are only 70 in the country. It is hoped Babu and Tensing will eventually take part in a breeding programme.

Missing red panda spotted in tree
03 Nov 05 |  West Midlands
Red panda missing from city park
01 Nov 05 |  West Midlands

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