Qizai brown panda

Qizai is the only brown giant panda in captivity.

A Littleton-based nonprofit is the new adoptive parent of the world’s only captive brown giant panda.

A ceremony was held last week to honor the role of Pandas International at a research center for giant panda breeding in northwest China.

The panda, named Qizai, was born in 2009 but was only about 2 months old when he was abandoned by his mother — a traditional black-and-white panda — in a nature reserve in Qinling Mountains in central China, according to researchers.

The first brown panda, called Dan-Dan, was discovered in 1985, also in the Qinling Mountains.

Though scientists are uncertain, Qizai’s unusual color could be from a genetic mutation, from inbreeding or possibly from environmental factors, though pandas in the region sometimes have areas with brown fur on their chests.

See a video of Qizai at youtube.com/watch?v=CW3KdE1BzYg.

The research center hopes more international and domestic organizations will join the Colorado organization in panda conservation.

Pandas International has donated vaccines, lab equipment, baby panda cribs and milk powder to help with the pandas, the research center said.

Suzanne Braden and Diane Rees founded Pandas International in 2000 to help ensure the preservation and propagation of the species.

“The Giant Panda, one of the most delightful and captivating of animals, is also one of the most endangered. The best scientific estimates indicate that there are less than 2,200 giant pandas remaining in the world today,” the organization said on its website.

“In 1999, after a trip to China and the Wolong Panda Center, the plight of the Giant Panda made such a dramatic impression on Suzanne Braden and Diane Rees that upon returning to the United States, they co-founded Pandas International, a registered 501©(3) non-profit, to help save this magnificent animal. Unlike other organizations which serve many animals, Pandas International is exclusively devoted to the giant panda.”

Contact Joey Bunch at joey.bunch@coloradopolitics.com or follow him on Twitter @joeybunch.

Contact Joey Bunch at joey.bunch@coloradopolitics.com or follow him on Twitter @joeybunch.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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