IT WAS not exactly love at first sight for Symbio Zoo's two new red pandas, but park manager Matthew Radnidge is hopeful the pair will grow to like each other.
The two pandas, Indira and Hamal, have been given to Symbio in the hope the critically endangered animals will start to breed.
Hamal, the male, arrived at the zoo from Adelaide last Tuesday and was released into the pen he will share with Indira about 11am the next day.
His first port of call was to eat a piece of apple before climbing up Indira's tree. But just as the pair was about to say hello, he became shy and turned around.
"They are generally very relaxed, placid animals," Mr Radnidge said.
Not much has been left to chance for the couple, who were introduced the day before the winter solstice, which is considered to be the peak of their breeding season.
"We've been given the chance to try and breed these animals. We're very excited about it but it is a big responsibility," Mr Radnidge said.
If they are successful the zoo could be celebrating two new pandas in as little as three months.
"There are usually two in a litter, but sometimes just one," Mr Radnidge explained.
He said while estimates of the number of wild red pandas varied, there could be as few as 250 living in pockets of habitat in China, Nepal and India.
More optimistic estimates put the population at about 6000.
Habitat loss and poaching are the two biggest threats to the animals' survival.