Red PandaScientific name: Ailurus fulgens

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Appearance

The red panda has long reddish brown fur on its upper parts, blackish fur on its lower parts and a light face with white markings similar to those on a raccoon, and each red panda has individual markings. This reddish coat and the white markings give them great camouflage amongst the red moss and white lichen that covers the tree trunks of the bamboo forest home they live in. They have a roundish head with a black nose, dark eyes and medium sized upright ears. They have a thick bushy tail with six yellowish red rings that is extremely long. The tail can measure in length from about 28 to 49 cms (11 to 19 in) and is used by the red panda to help in balance in the trees, they also use it to cover themselves with in the cold. They have short black legs and they have fur on the soles of their feet that stop them slipping on wet branches and also helps to keep them warm. The claws on their feet are semi retractable so that they are not damaged when they are walking on the ground and are kept sharp for climbing the trees.

The average body length of the red panda is 51 to 64 cms (20 to 25 in) with the tail length being 28 to 49 cms (11 to 19 in). The average weight of the male red panda is 4.5 to 6.2 kgs (10 to 14 pounds) and the females 3 to 4.5 kgs (6 to 10 pounds).

Lifespan

The average lifespan of the red panda is 8-12 years in the wild but they can live up to 15 years in captivity.

Diet

Red pandas eat mostly bamboo leaves, they eat the stalks in spring. They also eat fruit in the summer, as well as flowers and acorns. From time to time they also eat small birds, small rodents and eggs. Red pandas can’t process the bamboo very well especially the cellulose so they have to eat large amounts of the high quality leaves and shoots, around 1.5 kgs (3.3 pounds) of leaves and 4 kgs (8.8 pounds) of shoots each day. They have a bony extension of the wrist bone that acts like “a false thumb” that helps them grip the bamboo. Their diet is very low in calories so most of their time is spent sleeping or eating and they can spend up to 13 hours a day searching for bamboo. When they want a drink they will dip their paws in the water to drink.

Habitat

The red panda lives in the Himalayas, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and central China.
Their habitat is the cool temperate bamboo forests, and mountainous areas.
They have become vulnerable due to loss of their habitat through deforestation and farming and agriculture. They are also threatened due to hunting and poaching mainly for their fur.

Reproduction

The breeding season for the red panda is from January to April, and just like the giant panda the female red panda is only fertile for one or two days a year. After mating the female will either build a nest or find a hollow tree log or small cave to have her babies. After a gestation period of about 100 to 145 days the female will give birth to a litter of 1-4 cubs. These cubs will weigh on average 110 to 130 grams (3.85 to 4.55 ounces) and have thick buff and grey fur. Their ears and eyes are closed and will start to open at about 2 -3 weeks. They will stay in the den nursing from their mother for about 90 days and then they will start to venture out and start to eat solid foods. They will be weaned by about 6-8 months and by this time will be about the same size as their mother. They become mature at about 18-20 months and will leavered-panda their mother at this stage so the females can have their own litters and the mother can have another litter of her own. The male red pandas rarely help with anything to do with the cubs.

Behaviour

Red pandas lead mostly solitary lifes only really coming together to mate or when the mother and the cubs are together for the first year after birth.
They spend most of their lives high up in the trees and are most active at dusk and dawn.
They are generally quiet but communicate between each other by using whistling and twittering sounds.
Red pandas groom themselves much like normal house cats by licking their front paws and then rubbing their back and stomach.
Because of the remote habitat they live in the red panda doesn’t have many predators. The main ones are the snow leopard, martens and people. If they feel threatened they will either try to get high up in a tree or will stand up on their back legs to make them look bigger and use the sharp claws on their front paws to defend themselves.

Quick facts

The red panda is known by many names including western red panda, lesser panda, small red panda and fire cat.

The soles of the feet of the red panda are covered in wooly fur that helps them not to slip on wet tree branches and also helps to keep their feet warm.

The red panda has a large mouth that has 38 teeth that they need to eat their primary food which is bamboo.