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Natural Science Center of Greensboro to get rare Red Panda cub

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A rare red panda cub is coming to the Natural Science Center of Greensboro in March.

Officials said the cub was born May 20 at the Red River Zoo in Fargo, ND and will remain there until he is ready to come to Greensboro.

The Natural Science Center said it will clear out an exhibit of lorikeets to make the red panda's habitat.

The cub does not yet have a name, but he will get one soon when the Red River Zoo holds a naming contest for school children.

The relationship between a red panda and the more familiar giant panda bear is a subject of debate among zoologists.

The red panda resembles a raccoon and a fox, and it is larger than both. It gets its name from the reddish-orange color of its fur, which helps it to blend in with moss in the Himlayas of Southeast Asia.

The red panda is not a bear, and Natural Science Center Zoo Curator Jessica Hoffman said it's more closely related to a weasel.

That doesn't make it any less cute, and the Natural Science Center said it is thrilled to be getting the cub.

"They're beautiful to look at. The juveniles -- which we're going to be getting, it's a young, little boy -- are really cute. They play. They interact with their exhibit," Hoffman said.

The addition of the red panda cub is part of a $20-million expansion at the Natural Science Center. That includes a Sciquarium with penguins, sharks, and stingrays that's due to open in the spring and plans for more exotic animals including an orangutan.

Once the male adjusts to his habitat and reaches sexual maturity, the Natural Science Center plans to take in a female so the two can breed and propagate the species. It's part of the Envrionment Protection Agency's Species Protection Program.