Scarlett the red panda was found dead Wednesday morning at the Knoxville Zoo, officials said Friday.
A necropsy was being done at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine to determine the cause of death, Zoo spokeswoman Tina Rolen said.
Scarlett was popular with guests to the zoo, Rolen said.
Related: See the Knoxville Zoo Red Panda Cam
“Obviously our pandas are one of our most popular species. They’re right in the middle of the zoo and because of “Panda Cam” with the Knoxville News Sentinel, we have people following them year-round,” Rolen said.
She said people might not have known Scarlet by name — although many did — the pandas are an iconic animal for the Knoxville Zoo because the facility is the number one place for breeding pandas in captivity in the world.
“She was a mom last year and this year. That is how people identified her. They saw the cubs following her around,” Rolen said. “She raised both sets of cubs. It was wonderful to see them scampering after her.”
Rolen said Scarlett had a physical last month and staff at the zoo suspect the animal’s death may have been tied to a heart arrythmia she was experiencing.
“There was nothing that gave them reason to pause,” Rolen said. “There were no red flags something was wrong. It is unfortunately one of those sad moments, she went when she was so young.”
More details as they develop online and in Saturday’s News Sentinel.