Cuteness overload alert! The adorable Maiya, a red panda from Taronga Zoo in Australia, has been gaining a lot of attention recently after photos of the cub snuggling up to an identical cuddly toy went viral.
Poor Maiya has had to be separated from her mum Amala so that she could recover from an injury. While the decision to take Maiya out of the enclosure and hand-rear her instead was the best choice for her health, the zoo's staff were worried that separating Maiya from her kind would leave her lonely and stressed. So the clever animal experts decided to enlist the help of a cuddly friend – a stuffed red panda toy that looks just like her.
The idea seems to have worked as Maiya absolutely loves her sweet lookalike teddy!
According to zoo keepers, Maiya loves to cuddle and snuggle with her toy when she sleeps and eats. Isn't that adorable?
Taronga’s Senior Carnivore Keeper Tamara Gillies expalined to ABC how while mum Amala was carrying Maiya using her mouth, she unfortunately managed to injure the cub’s neck.
'Everything went really well initially, Amala was doing some fantastic maternal behaviours,' she explained.
'The mum was actually carrying the cub around by the scruff of the neck, which is a common way that red panda mothers do carry their babies.
'Unfortunately, her saliva or something getting into the skin folds, it actually caused a wound on the cub’s neck.'
But don't worry, Maiya is loving her new cuddly friend and the zoo's staff are making sure to keep her in regular contact with the other red pandas. If all goes well, Maiya should be returned to her mum in about a month's time. Maybe Amala can be a mum to Maiya's new BFF too?