Welcome to this article about red pandas! These beautiful animals happen to be a close relative of the giant panda and are bamboo eaters that are native to parts of southern China and the Himalayas. Join us as we take a look at a few facts about the red panda!
Physical and Scientific Characteristics of Red Pandas
- The scientific name of the red panda is Ailurus fulgens which loosely translates from Latin to ‘Shining Cat’.
- There are two sub-species of red pandas: the Western red panda (Ailurus fulgens fulgens) and the Styan’s red panda (Ailurus fulgens styani).
- Red pandas have a characteristic reddish-brown coat with blackish fur in the inner parts of their body. They have white badges on their face like that of a raccoon as well as cream-colored rings on a bushy tail.
- The Styan’s red panda tend to be larger in size with a bigger skull, more stronger teeth and have a darker color on their coat compared to their western counterparts.
- The thick nature of the tail helps them to maintain balance when climbing trees and scourging for food.
- In addition to providing insulation for the pandas from snow and colder weather, the pattern of the coat helps with camouflage against their tree habitats.
- It has curved, semi-retractile claws which enables it to grasp trees steadily and firmly when eating or climbing.
- It is one of the few species in the animal kingdom to control its descent by rotating its ankle.
- Red pandas can reach a length of up to 25 inches and be around approximately 12 lbs in weight. Its tail is just as long as its body, growing up to 20 inches in length.
Habitat and Distribution
- Red pandas live in high altitudes (of between 2000 to 5000m) where the temperature range is between 10 and 25°c where there is minimal changes in the climate. They are most concentrated in conifer forests where there is an abundance of bamboo.
- These animals are endemic to the Himalayas where there are temperate forests. The specific range includes southern China, northern Burma, northern India and the south of Tibet (at the base of the Himalayas).
- Populations are concentrated in areas such as in the Sichuan province of China, suggesting varying distributions during the current era.
- The western red panda lives in the west of the range from Nepal to Bhutan, while Styan’s red panda lives in Southern China and Burma.
Red Panda Diet and Behavior
- Red pandas have a diet that relies on foraging in trees. They usually eat bamboo as their primary diet but have also been observed to eat berries, flowers and even birds and small mammals.
- They are known to eat around 200,000 bamboo leaves per day! As they cannot digest cellulose, they have to consume a lot of bamboo in order to survive.
- Due to their low-calorie diets, they often move around extremely slowly and need a lot of sleep to preserve their energy.
- These animals are one of the only non-primate species in the world to recognize and taste artificial sweeteners.
- Most of their lives are spent on the trees.
- Red pandas are mostly solitary and the individuals do not meet unless it is the mating season.
- They are also known to be diurnal and have their peak activity during the late afternoon and evening.
- Red pandas are incredibly heat-sensitive and require temperatures between 17 to 25° Any temperature that is higher can be extremely risky for their survival.
- These animals are generally quiet but can make whistling or twittering sounds when they need to communicate.
- A red panda becomes an adult at 2-3 years of age. After mating, the female will typically give birth to around 1-4 cubs. She will initially spend most of her time with the cubs, eventually returning only to give them food. The males will rarely assist with raising the young.
- The mother will move the cubs across several nesting sites. They will remain with their mother until her next litter is born the following year.
Additional Interesting Facts about Red Pandas
- The biggest predators of the red pandas are the mustelid family (weasels, badgers etc.), snow leopards and humans.
- Their primary threats from humans are caused by hunting, poaching, and deforestation (leading to habitat loss).
- It is currently classified as an endangered species with a global (decreasing) population of around 10,000 animals. Hunting is currently illegal for conservation purposes.
- Red pandas are adaptable to captivity and are commonly observed in zoos which assist with the conservation activities.
I hope that you enjoyed learning about red panda facts. If you want to learn more about other animals, visit animal facts page.