ATLANTA -- 'Shandy' passed away overnight on Monday at Zoo Atlanta, from what veterinarians called a sudden illness.

Shandy the Red Panda was 12 years old, and came to Zoo Atlanta in October 2008.

She spent Monday night in the Zoo's hospital. Initially, vets were unable to determine Shandy's specific health problem.

"We had been treating Shandy since the onset of her symptoms yesterday, but unfortunately she passed before we were able to discern the root cause of her illness," Hayley Murphy, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services said. "It's always disheartening to lose any animal, but Shandy was one-of-a-kind and a special favorite among many of our staff, Members and guests."

Keisha Hines, spokeswoman for Zoo Atlanta reported that the zoo family had come to know Shandy for being shy and independent. In the summer, she spent her time in the trees of the air-conditionedAsian Forest habitat. In the winter, Shandy explored her yard, while few other animals kept indoors during cold days.

Shandy was born June 9, 2000 at the Knoxville Zoological Gardens, Hines said. Before coming to Atlanta, she lived at the Potter Park Zoo.

"Red pandas are solitary, and the Zoo's resident red panda certainly echoed this tendency during her years in Atlanta," Hines said."She made occasional trips down from the trees to accept grapes from her keepers, but raisins were her favorite rewards during training sessions."

Sharing the habitat with Shandy was 14-year-old Marvin, a Reeves' muntjac.

According to Hines, red pandas are native to Asia from the Himalayas to southern China. However, they are not related to giant pandas. Red pandas and giant pandas both eat bamboo and have pseudothumbs to hold their food.

Red pandas are nocturnal and crepuscular - they spend much of their time in trees. Although red pandas are endangered, their status in the wild is unknown.

On average, red pandas live for 13 -14 years.

As with all animalsthat pass at Zoo Atlanta, a necropsy will be performed to gain more information.

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