The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) lives beneath the forest canopy in the mountains in Nepal, India, Bhutan, China, Laos and Myanmar. There are 2 subspecies, which live in slightly different geographical areas. As implied by their name, red pandas are red, and have white and black markings. Their legs and bellies are black. Their tails are ringed. They even have fur on the soles of their feet, which helps them stay warm in the high altitudes where they live.
These rare animals mainly eat bamboo and will spend up to 13 hours a day searching for and eating bamboo. The red panda only eats the young, tender shoots and leaves. They will also eat fruit, berries, blossoms, insects, and bird eggs. Occasionally they eat fungi, seeds, acorns, young birds, and small rodents.
Litters of red panda range from 1 to 4 babies. Newborn cubs are covered in thick gray fur and weigh only 4 to 5 ounces. Their eyes and ears are closed at birth. Cubs stay in the nest for about 90 days and stay with mom until the next mating season. They are full size at 12 months, though aren’t ready to reproduce until 18 to 24 months.
Red pandas are most active in the early morning and late afternoon. They sleep in trees with their tails curled around themselves. They communicate using body language and a variety of sounds, including a warning whistle. The red panda’s tail helps its balance when climbing. Red pandas move slowly on the ground.
Red pandas are endangered mainly due to loss of habitat, but also due to hunting for their fur to make hats, etc. The snow leopard, clouded leopard and wild dogs are the red panda’s natural predators.
Fun Red Panda Facts
- The Red Panda is about the size of a raccoon and weighs 7 to 14 pounds. They are about 20 to 26 inches long with their tail an additional 12 to 20 inches.
- Their other names include: Bear-cat, Bright Panda, Cat-bear, Fire Fox, Lesser Panda, Petit Panda and Poonya.
- Their claws are partially retractable. They have an extended bone which is like a “thumb.”
- Red pandas live 12 to 14 years.
- Over the winter red pandas often lose up to 15% of their body weight.
The Red Panda Project
Smithsonian National Zoological Park