The classification of the red panda has caused continued controversy since it was first described in 1825 (1), due to similarities with both the bear family and the procyonids such as racoons (4). Today it is placed with the racoons, but in its own separate subfamily, the Ailurinae (4). The lustrous coat is a rich reddish brown colour on the back and black on the legs; longer coarse guard hairs cover the dense woolly undercoat, which provides warmth (4). The coat provides effective camouflage amongst the trees where branches are often swathed in reddish-brown moss (5). The face is rounded and predominantly white with reddish brown 'tear marks' running from the corner of each eye to the mouth (5). The long bushy tail is marked with 12 alternating red and buff rings and the soles of the feet are covered with thick white hair to provide warmth (5). Currently two subspecies of the red panda exist; Ailurus fulgens fulgens is smaller and lighter (especially in the facial region) than the related A. f. styani (6). Like the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), red pandas also posses a modified wrist bone that acts as a sixth digit or thumb, although it is smaller than that of the better-known giant panda (4). Red pandas have a wide range of vocalisations, the most peculiar of which is a 'quack-snort' (4).
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