On March 28, the Houston Zoo will unveil its new star attraction: a rare red panda named Toby.
Holy hell, Toby is cute.
Have you ever seen one of these things?
Probably not, unless you happen to live in the Himalayan foothills between 5,000 and 13,000 feet. Red pandas eat exclusively bamboo, live largely solitary lives, and are well known within the animal kingdom for being far too adorable to eat.
"Oh, we never go near them in the wild," Jammu, one of the Houston Zoo's tigers, possibly tells Hair Balls. "It doesn't matter how hungry you are, you just don't do it."
"It's easy to sneak up on one from behind, but then they turn around and you look in those big doe eyes," agreed Pandu the tiger. "Holy crap. So effin' CUTE."
When asked about Toby, African wild dogs Blaze and Aries cooed in unison, causing the rest of the pack to join in with sighs of deep affection.
"Have you seen his paws?" gushed Blaze. "Go look at his widdle paws!"
However, not every animal at the zoo is happy at Toby's arrival. Ginger, a Nyala calf born in October of last year, is finding herself overshadowed.
"It's difficult, being a child star," she told us. "At first everyone is -- excuse the pun -- fawning all over you, telling you you're the cutest thing they've ever seen and baby-talking to you... it's a good life, until the next big thing comes along. I'm lucky if anyone even knows my damn name anymore, thanks to Toby."
"It definitely takes some getting used to," said Jack, a giraffe who turned one year old back in January. "You start making friends with the newer, cuter animals, hoping that maybe you can share the spotlight, but it never turns out that way. Before you know it the novelty wears off and you're just another gangly, awkward adult."
Hadiah, a rare Baribusa pig born in May, was much more blunt: "Yeah, I've seen the little creep. Don't think for a second he doesn't know the power he has. Frankly I'd like to kick his smug panda face in."
Hadiah then considered her statement, sighed, and added "Oh who am I kidding. I could never lay a hoof on Toby."
Toby will be capering and gamboling about lovably in his new indoor exhibit near the zoo's Natural Encounters Building.
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