Brief Summary

    Red panda: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia

    The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, because the wild population is estimated at fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and continues to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression.

    The red panda has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs; it is roughly the size of a domestic cat, though with a longer body and somewhat heavier. It is arboreal, feeds mainly on bamboo, but also eats eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn, and is largely sedentary during the day. It is also called the lesser panda, the red bear-cat, and the red cat-bear.

    The red panda is the only living species of the genus Ailurus and the family Ailuridae. It has been previously placed in the raccoon and bear families, but the results of phylogenetic analysis provide strong support for its taxonomic classification in its own family, Ailuridae, which is part of the superfamily Musteloidea, along with the weasel, raccoon and skunk families. Two subspecies are recognized. It is not closely related to the giant panda, which is a basal ursid.

    Brief Summary
    provided by EOL authors

    The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), which occurs in a narrow range extending west to Nepal and east to southwestern China, is the only extant species in the family Ailuridae. The evolutionary affinities of this species remain uncertain, with morphological and molecular phylogenetic data having led various researchers to conclude that it is most closely related to Procyonidae (raccoon family), Ursidae (bears), or ursids plus seals, among other possibilities. As of 2013, it appears that Ailuridae is sister to a clade consisting of (Procyonidae + Mustelidae), with Mephitidae basal to (Ailuridae + Procyonidae + Mustelidae) (Eizirik et al. 2010; Nyakatura and Bininda-Emonds 2012; Sato et al. 2012). The Red Panda is no longer believed to be closely related to the Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), although it shares with the Giant Panda a bamboo diet and certain associated morphological peculiarities (bamboo leaves constitute around 80 to 90% of the Red Panda's diet).

    Red Pandas are found in temperate forests of the Himalayas and in the mountains of northern Burma and western Sichuan and Yunnan at elevations of 1500 to 4800 meters (and even up to the snowline at 5000 meters in summer). In Meghalaya (northeastern India), they have been found in tropical forests at much lower elevations, between 1700 and 1400 meters. Red Pandas are found in forests with a thick bamboo understory. Around half of the geographic range falls within China.

    Except during the mating season, Red Pandas are generally solitary. They are well adapted for climbing and spend much of their time off the ground.

    At least in China, Red Panda populations declined dramatically in the latter part of the 20th century. The greatest threats to Red Panda populations are habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and trade in live animals, although Red Pandas are legally protected in China, India, Bhutan, and Nepal and protected areas with Red Pandas have been established in all these countries.

Comprehensive Description

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
    provided by AnAge articles
    Maximum longevity: 19 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen lived for 19 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
    Red panda
    provided by wikipedia

    The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, because the wild population is estimated at fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and continues to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression.[1]

    The red panda has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs; it is roughly the size of a domestic cat, though with a longer body and somewhat heavier. It is arboreal, feeds mainly on bamboo, but also eats eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, mainly active from dusk to dawn, and is largely sedentary during the day. It is also called the lesser panda, the red bear-cat, and the red cat-bear.[4]

    The red panda is the only living species of the genus Ailurus and the family Ailuridae. It has been previously placed in the raccoon and bear families, but the results of phylogenetic analysis provide strong support for its taxonomic classification in its own family, Ailuridae, which is part of the superfamily Musteloidea, along with the weasel, raccoon and skunk families.[5] Two subspecies are recognized.[3] It is not closely related to the giant panda, which is a basal ursid.

    Physical characteristics

    A red panda descending a tree head first.
    A red panda skull.

    The head and body length of a red panda measures 50 to 64 cm (20 to 25 in), and its tail is 28 to 59 cm (11 to 23 in). Males weigh 3.7 to 6.2 kg (8.2 to 13.7 lb) and females 3 to 6.0 kg (6.6 to 13.2 lb).[6][7][8] They have long, soft, reddish-brown fur on the upper parts, blackish fur on the lower parts, and a light face with tear markings and robust cranio-dental features. The light face has white badges similar to those of a raccoon, but each individual can have distinctive markings. Their roundish heads have medium-sized upright ears, black noses, and blackish eyes. Their long, bushy tails with six alternating transverse ochre rings provide balance and excellent camouflage against their habitat of moss- and lichen-covered trees. The legs are black and short with thick fur on the soles of the paws. This fur serves as thermal insulation on snow-covered or icy surfaces and conceals scent glands, which are also present on the anus.[9]

    The red panda is specialized as a bamboo feeder with strong, curved and sharp semi-retractile claws[6] standing inward for grasping narrow tree branches, leaves, and fruit. Like the giant panda, it has a “false thumb”, which is an extension of the wrist bone. When descending a tree head-first, the red panda rotates its ankle to control its descent, one of the few climbing species to do so.[10]

    Distribution and habitat

    A red panda lies sleeping on a high branch of a tree, with tail stretched out behind and legs dangling on each side of the branch
    A red panda sleeping on a tree.

    The red panda is endemic to the temperate forests of the Himalayas, and ranges from the foothills of western Nepal to China in the east.[11] Its easternmost limit is the Qinling Mountains of the Shaanxi Province in China. Its range includes southern Tibet, Sikkim and Assam in India, Bhutan, the northern mountains of Burma, and in south-western China, in the Hengduan Mountains of Sichuan and the Gongshan Mountains in Yunnan. It may also live in south-west Tibet and northern Arunachal Pradesh, but this has not been documented. Locations with the highest density of red pandas include an area in the Himalayas that has been proposed as having been a refuge for a variety of endemic species in the Pleistocene. The distribution range of the red panda should be considered disjunct, rather than continuous.[6] A disjunct population inhabits the Meghalaya Plateau of north-eastern India.[12]

    During a survey in the 1970s, signs of red pandas were found in Nepal's Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve.[13] Their presence was confirmed in spring 2007 when four red pandas were sighted at elevations ranging from 3,220 to 3,610 m (10,560 to 11,840 ft).[14] The species' westernmost limit is in Rara National Park located farther west of the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve.[15] Their presence was confirmed in 2008.[16]

    The red panda lives between 2,200 and 4,800 m (7,200 and 15,700 ft) altitude, inhabiting areas of moderate temperature between 10 and 25 °C (50 and 77 °F) with little annual change. It prefers mountainous mixed deciduous and conifer forests, especially with old trees and dense understories of bamboo.[6][11]

    The red panda population in Sichuan Province is larger and more stable than the Yunnan population, suggesting a southward expansion from Sichuan into Yunnan in the Holocene.[17]

    The red panda has become extirpated from the Chinese provinces of Guizhou, Gansu, Shaanxi, and Qinghai.[18]

    Distribution of subspecies

    Distribution of the red panda is disjointed, with two extant subspecies:

    • Western red panda A. f. fulgens (Cuvier, 1825) lives in the western part of its range, in Nepal, Assam, Sikkim, and Bhutan.
    • Styan's red panda A. f. styani lives in the east-north-eastern part of its range, in southern China and northern Burma.[19]

    A. f. styani has been described by Thomas in 1902 based on one skull from a specimen collected in Sichuan.[2] Pocock distinguished A. f. styani from A. f. fulgens by its longer winter coat and greater blackness of the pelage, bigger skull, more strongly curved forehead, and more robust teeth. His description is based on skulls and skins collected in Sichuan, Myitkyina close to the border of Yunnan, and Upper Burma.[9]

    Styan's red panda is supposedly larger and darker in color than the Western member of the species, but with considerable variation in both subspecies, and some individuals may be brown or yellowish brown rather than red.[11]

    The Brahmaputra River is often considered the natural division between the two subspecies, where it makes a curve around the eastern end of the Himalayas, although some authors suggest A. f. fulgens extends farther eastward, into China.

    Biology and behavior


    Sounds of red panda twittering.

    The red panda is territorial; it is solitary except during mating season. The species is generally quiet except for some twittering, tweeting, and whistling communication sounds. It has been reported to be both nocturnal and crepuscular, sleeping on tree branches or in tree hollows during the day and increasing its activity in the late afternoon and early evening hours. It sleeps stretched out on a branch with legs dangling when it is hot, and curled up with its tail over the face when it is cold.[6] This animal is very heat-sensitive, with an optimal “well-being” temperature between 17 and 25 °C (63 and 77 °F), and cannot tolerate temperatures over 25 °C (77 °F)[citation needed].

    A red panda standing on a stone.

    Shortly after waking, red pandas clean their fur somewhat like a cat would, licking their front paws and then rubbing their backs, torsos, and sides. They also rub their backs and bellies along the sides of trees or rocks. Then they patrol their territories, marking with urine and a weak musk-smelling secretion from their anal glands. They search for food running along the ground or through the trees. Red pandas may use their forepaws alternately to bring food to their mouths or place food directly into their mouths.[6]

    Predators of the red panda include the snow leopard, mustelids, and humans. If they feel threatened or sense danger, they may try to escape by climbing a rock column or tree. If they can no longer flee, they stand on their hind legs to make themselves appear larger and use the sharp claws on their front paws to defend themselves. A red panda, Futa, became a visitor attraction in Japan for his ability to stand upright for ten seconds at a time.[20] (See also: facultative biped)


    A red panda gnawing.

    Red pandas are excellent climbers, and forage largely in trees. They eat mostly bamboo, and may eat small mammals, birds, eggs, flowers, and berries. In captivity, they were observed to eat birds, flowers, maple and mulberry leaves, and bark and fruits of maple, beech, and mulberry.[6]

    Like the giant panda, they cannot digest cellulose, so they must consume a large volume of bamboo to survive. Their diets consist of about two-thirds bamboo, but they also eat mushrooms, roots, acorns, lichens, and grasses. Occasionally, they supplement their diets with fish and insects. They do little more than eat and sleep due to their low-calorie diets.[21][22]

    The red panda's herbivore diet.

    Bamboo shoots are more easily digested than leaves, exhibiting the highest digestibility in summer and autumn, intermediate digestibility in the spring, and lowest digestibility in the winter. These variations correlate with the nutrient contents in the bamboo. Red pandas process bamboo poorly, especially the cellulose and cell wall components. This implies microbial digestion plays only a minor role in their digestive strategy. To survive on this poor-quality diet, they have to eat the high-quality sections of the bamboo plant, such as the tender leaves and shoots, in large quantities, over 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) of fresh leaves and 4 kg (8.8 lb) of fresh shoots daily. This food passes through the digestive tract fairly rapidly (about 2–4 hr) so as to maximize daily nutrient intake.[23] Red pandas can taste artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, and are the only nonprimates known to be able to do so.[24]


    A red panda tending its cub.

    Red pandas are able to reproduce at around 18 months of age, and are fully mature at two to three years. Adults rarely interact in the wild except to mate. Both sexes may mate with more than one partner during the mating season from mid-January to early March.[25] A few days before birth, females begin to collect material, such as brushwood, grass, and leaves, to build a nest, which is normally located in a hollow tree or a rock crevice. After a gestation period of 112 to 158 days, the female gives birth in mid-June to late July to one to four (usually 1–2) blind and deaf cubs weighing 110 to 130 g (3.9 to 4.6 oz) each.[6]

    After birth, the mother cleans the cubs, and can then recognize each by its smell. At first, she spends 60% to 90% of her time with the cubs. After the first week, the mother starts spending more time outside the nest, returning every few hours to nurse and groom the cubs. She moves the young frequently among several nests, all of which she keeps clean. The cubs start to open their eyes at about 18 days of age. By about 90 days, they achieve full adult fur and coloring, and begin to venture out of the nest. They also start eating solid foods at this point, weaning at around six to eight months of age. The cubs stay with their mother until the next litter is born in the following summer. Males rarely help raise the young, and only if they live in pairs or in small groups.[6]

    A red panda's average lifespan is between eight and 10 years, but individuals have been known to reach 15 years[citation needed].


    The primary threats to red pandas are direct harvest from the wild, live or dead, competition with domestic livestock resulting in habitat degradation, and deforestation resulting in habitat loss or fragmentation. The relative importance of these factors is different in each region, and is not well understood.[11] For instance, in India, the biggest threat seems to be habitat loss followed by poaching, while in China, the biggest threat seems to be hunting and poaching.[1] A 40% decrease in red panda populations has been reported in China over the last 50 years, and populations in western Himalayan areas are considered to be lower.[18]

    Deforestation can inhibit the spread of red pandas and exacerbate the natural population subdivision by topography and ecology, leading to severe fragmentation of the remaining wild population. Fewer than 40 animals in four separate groups share resources with humans in Nepal's Langtang National Park, where only 6% of 1,710 km2 (660 sq mi) is preferred red panda habitat. Although direct competition for food with domestic livestock is not significant, livestock can depress bamboo growth by trampling.[26]

    Small groups of animals with little opportunity for exchange between them face the risk of inbreeding, decreased genetic diversity, and even extinction. In addition, clearcutting for firewood or agriculture, including hillside terracing, removes old trees that provide maternal dens and decreases the ability of some species of bamboo to regenerate.[11]

    In south-west China, red pandas are hunted for their fur, especially for the highly valued bushy tails, from which hats are produced. In these areas, the fur is often used for local cultural ceremonies. In weddings, the bridegroom traditionally carries the hide. The "good-luck charm" red panda-tail hats are also used by local newly-weds.[18] This practice may be quite old, as the red panda seems to be depicted in a 13th-century Chinese pen-and-ink scroll showing a hunting scene. Little or no mention of the red panda is made in the culture and folklore of Nepal.[27]

    In the past, red pandas were captured and sold to zoos. In an article appearing in the International Zoo News in 1969, one reported he personally had handled 350 red pandas in 17 years.[28]

    Due to CITES, this zoo harvest has decreased substantially in recent years, but poaching continues, and red pandas are often sold to private collectors at exorbitant prices. In some parts of Nepal and India, red pandas are kept as pets.[29]

    The red panda has a naturally low birth rate (usually one single or twin birth per year), and a high death rate in the wild[citation needed].


    Closeup look of a red panda.
    A red panda resting on a tree.

    The red panda is listed in CITES Appendix I.[30] The species has been classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List since 2008 because the global population is estimated at about 10,000 individuals, with a decreasing population trend; only about half of the total area of potential habitat of 142,000 km2 (55,000 sq mi) is actually being used by the species. Due to their shy and secretive nature, and their largely nocturnal habits, observation of red pandas is difficult. Therefore, population figures in the wild are determined by population density estimates and not direct counts.[1]

    Worldwide population estimates range from fewer than 2,500[25] to between 16,000 and 20,000 individuals.[12] In 1999, the total population in China was estimated at between 3,000 and 7,000 individuals.[18] In 2001, the wild population in India was estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000 individuals.[12] Estimates for Nepal indicate only a few hundred individuals.[31] No records from Bhutan or Burma exist.

    Reliable population numbers are hard to find, partly because other animals have been mistaken for the red panda. For instance, one report from Burma stated that red pandas were still fairly common in some areas; however, the accompanying photographic proof of the "red panda" is in fact a species of civet.[32]

    The red panda is protected in all range countries, and hunting is illegal.[1] Beyond this, conservation efforts are highly variable between countries:

    In situ initiatives

    A community-managed forest in Ilam District of eastern Nepal is home to 15 red pandas which generate household income through tourism activities, including homestays. Villagers in the high-altitude areas of Arunachal Pradesh have formed the Pangchen Red Panda Conservation Alliance comprising five villages with a community-conserved forest area of 200 km2 (77 sq mi) at an altitude of 2,500 m (8,200 ft) to over 4,000 m (13,000 ft).[34]

    In captivity

    Red panda at Prospect Park Zoo, New York

    The red panda is quite adaptable to living in captivity, and is common in zoos worldwide. By 1992, more than 300 births had occurred in captivity, and more than 300 individuals lived in 85 institutions worldwide.[35] By 2001, 182 individuals were in North American zoos alone.[36] As of 2006, the international studbook listed more than 800 individuals in zoos and parks around the world. Of these, 511 individuals of subspecies A. f. fulgens were kept in 173 institutions[37] and 306 individuals of subspecies A. f. styani were kept in 81 institutions.[38]

    The international studbook is currently managed at the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands. In cooperation with the International Red Panda Management Group, they coordinate the Species Survival Plan in North America, the European Endangered Species Programme in Europe, and other captive-breeding programs in Australia, India, Japan, and China.[38][39] In 2009, Sarah Glass, curator of red pandas and special exhibits at the Knoxville Zoo in Knoxville, Tennessee, was appointed as coordinator for the North American Red Panda Species Survival Plan. The Knoxville Zoo has the largest number of captive red panda births in the Western Hemisphere (101 as of August 2011). Only the Rotterdam Zoo has had more captive births worldwide.[37][38]

    The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling, India, successfully released four captive-bred red pandas to the wild in August and November 2003.[39]

    A red panda feeding on Sorbus wardii seasonal fruit in the Himalayan region.

    As pets

    A red panda on a ginkgo tree.

    The most often cited example of keeping red pandas as pets is the case of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi. Pandas were presented to her family as a gift, and they were then housed in "a special tree house".[40]


    Main article: Ailuridae

    The taxonomic classification of the red panda has been controversial since it was discovered. French zoologist Frédéric Cuvier initially described the red panda in 1825, and classified it as a close relative of the raccoon (Procyonidae), though he gave it the genus name Ailurus, (from Ancient Greek αἴλουρος, "cat"), based on superficial similarities with domestic cats. The specific epithet is the Latin adjective fulgens ("shining").[41]

    At various times, it has been placed in the Procyonidae, Ursidae, with Ailuropoda (giant panda) in the Ailuropodinae (until this family was moved into the Ursidae), and into its own family, the Ailuridae. This uncertainty comes from difficulty in determining whether certain characteristics of Ailurus are phylogenetically conservative or are derived and convergent with species of similar ecological habits.[6]

    Red panda gnawing on an exfoliated bamboo bush.

    Evidence based on the fossil record, serology, karyology, behavior, anatomy, and reproduction reflect closer affinities with Procyonidae than Ursidae. However, ecological and foraging specializations and distinct geographical distribution in relation to modern procyonids support classification in the separate family Ailuridae.[3][6][42]

    Recent molecular systematic DNA research also places the red panda into its own family, Ailuridae, a part of the broad superfamily Musteloidea that also includes the skunk, raccoon, and weasel families.[5][42][43]

    .mw-parser-output .templatequote{overflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px}.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequotecite{line-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0}

    It is not a bear, nor closely related to the giant panda, nor a raccoon, nor a lineage of uncertain affinities. Rather it is a basal lineage of musteloid, with a long history of independence from its closest relatives (skunks, raccoons, and otters/weasels/badgers).

    — Flynn et al., Whence the Red Panda, [5] p. 197

    The two subspecies are A. f. fulgens and A. f. styani. However, the name Ailurus fulgens refulgens is sometimes incorrectly used for A. f. styani. This stems from a lapsus made by Henri Milne-Edwards in his 1874 paper "Recherches pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des mammifères comprenant des considérations sur la classification de ces animaux",[44] making A. f. refulgens a nomen nudum.[9][19] The most recent edition of Mammal Species of the World still shows the subspecies as A. f. refulgens.[3] This has been corrected in more recent works, including A guide to the Mammals of China[45] and Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Volume 1: Carnivores.[46]

    Evolutionary history

    Captive red panda

    The red panda is considered a living fossil and only distantly related to the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), as it is naturally more closely related to the other members of the superfamily Musteloidea to which it belongs. The common ancestor of both pandas (which also was an ancestor for all living bears; pinnipeds like seals and walruses; and members of the family Musteloidea like weasels and otters) can be traced back to the Paleogene period tens of millions of years ago, with a wide distribution across Eurasia.

    Fossils of the extinct red panda Parailurus anglicus have been unearthed from China in the east to Britain in the west.[47] In 1977, a single tooth of Parailurus was discovered in the Pliocene Ringold Formation of Washington. This first North American record is almost identical to European specimens and indicates the immigration of this species from Asia.[48] In 2004, a tooth from a red panda species never before recorded in North America was discovered at the Gray Fossil Site in Tennessee. The tooth dates from 4.5–7 million years ago. This species, described as Pristinailurus bristoli, indicates that a second, more primitive ailurine lineage inhabited North America during the Miocene. Cladistic analysis suggests that Parailurus and Ailurus are sister taxa.[47][49] Additional fossils of Pristinailurus bristoli were discovered at the Gray Fossil Site in 2010 and in 2012.[50][51] The frequency with which panda fossils are being found at Gray Fossil Site suggests the species played a large role in the overall ecosystem of the area.

    The discovery in Spain of the postcranial remains of Simocyon batalleri, a Miocene relative to the red panda, supports a sister-group relationship between red pandas and bears. The discovery suggests the red panda's "false thumb" was an adaptation to arboreal locomotion — independent of the giant panda's adaptation to manipulate bamboo — one of the most dramatic cases of convergent evolution among vertebrates.[52]

    Taxonomic history

    Captive red panda

    The first known written record of the red panda occurs in a 13th-century Chinese scroll depicting a hunting scene between hunters and the red panda.[27][35]

    Major General Thomas Hardwicke’s 1821 presentation of an article titled "Description of a new Genus of the Class Mammalia, from the Himalaya Chain of Hills Between Nepaul and the Snowy Mountains" at the Linnean Society in London is usually regarded as the moment the red panda became a bona fide species in Western science. Hardwicke proposed the name "wha" and explained: "It is frequently discovered by its loud cry or call, resembling the word ‘Wha’, often repeating the same: hence is derived one of the local names by which it is known. It is also called Chitwa." Hardwicke's paper was not published until 1827, by which time Frédéric Cuvier had published his description and a figure. Hardwicke's originally proposed taxonomic name was removed from the 1827 publication of his paper with his permission, and naming credit is now given to Cuvier.[53]

    Frédéric Cuvier had received the specimen he described from his brother's stepson, Alfred Duvaucel, who had sent it "from the mountains north of India".[54] He was the first to use both the binomial name Ailurus fulgens and the vernacular name panda in his description of the species published in 1825 in Histoire naturelle des mammifères.[55][56] Ailurus is adopted from the ancient Greek word αἴλουρος (ailouros), meaning "cat".[57] The specific epithet fulgens is Latin for "shining, bright".[58] Panda is a Roman goddess of peace and travellers, who was called upon before starting a difficult journey.[59] Whether this is the origin of the French vernacular name panda remains uncertain. Later publications claim the name was adopted from a Himalayan language.

    In 1847, Hodgson described a red panda under the name Ailurus ochraceus, of which Pocock concluded it represents the same type as Ailurus fulgens, since the description of the two agree very closely. He subordinated both types to the Himalayan red panda subspecies Ailurus fulgens fulgens.[9]


    An illustration in the Chinese dictionary Zhonghua Da Zidian.

    Names in its native range

    The red panda's local names differ from place to place. The Lepcha call it sak nam. In Nepal, it is called bhalu biralo (bear-cat) and habre. The Sherpa people of Nepal and Sikkim call it ye niglva ponva and wah donka.[60] The word wậː is Sunuwari meaning bear; in Tamang language, a small, red bear is called tāwām.[61] In the Kanchenjunga region of eastern Nepal, the Limbus know red pandas as kaala (literally "dark") because of their underside pelage; villagers of Tibetan origin call them hoptongar.[62]

    Additionally, Pocock lists the vernacular names ye and nigálya ponya (Nepal); thokya and thongwa (Limbu); oakdonga or wakdonka and woker (Bhotia); saknam sunam (Lepcha).[9] Nigálya may originate from the Nepali word निङालो niṅālo or nĩgālo, a small bamboo, Arundinaria intermedia, but also refers to a kind of small leopard, or cat-bear.[63] The word pónya may originate from the Nepali पञ्जा pajā ("claw") or पौँजा paũjā ("paw").[64] Nigálya pónya may translate to "bamboo claw/paw". Nigálya pónya, nyala ponga,[65] and poonya are also said to mean "eater of bamboo".[66] The name panda could originate from panjā.[67]

    In modern Chinese, the red panda is called xiăoxióngmāo (小熊猫/小熊貓, lesser or small panda),[68] or 红熊猫/紅熊貓 (hóngxióngmāo, red panda).[69] In contrast, the giant panda is called dàxióngmāo (大熊猫/大熊貓, giant or big panda), or simply xióngmāo (熊猫/熊貓, panda, literally bear-cat).

    English names

    In English, the red panda is also called lesser panda (since it is smaller than the giant panda),[70] though "red" is more commonly used nowadays. As it was known in the West decades before the giant panda, initially it was the red panda that was simply called "panda".[71][72] When distinction became necessary, the red panda was still considered the true panda and common panda.[70][73]

    Other English names used in the past include fire fox, fire cat, red cat, fox bear, bright panda, and Himalayan raccoon.[74][35]

    Names in other languages

    Many other languages also use "red" or variations of "shining/gold" or "lesser/small" in their names for this species. For instance, червена панда in Bulgarian, panda roux in French, panda rojo in Spanish, and Roter Panda in German all mean "red panda". Since at least as far back as 1855, one of its French names has been panda éclatant (shining panda).[75] In Finnish, it is called kultapanda (gold panda).

    Variations of "lesser panda" occur in French petit panda (small panda), German Kleiner Panda (small panda), Spanish panda menor (lesser panda), Dutch kleine panda (small panda), Russian малая панда (malaya panda, "small panda"), Korean 애기판다 (aeki panda, "baby panda"), and Japanese レッサーパンダ (ressā panda, a transliteration of English "lesser panda")[citation needed].

    Cultural depictions

    The red panda was recognized as the state animal of Sikkim in the early 1990s,[76] and was the mascot of the Darjeeling Tea Festival.[27]

    In 2005, Babu, a male red panda at Birmingham Nature Centre in Birmingham, England, escaped[77] and briefly became a media celebrity,[77][78] before being recaptured. He was subsequently voted "Brummie of the Year", the first animal to receive this honor.[77][78] Rusty, a male red panda at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, similarly attracted media attention when he briefly escaped in 2013.[79][80]

    The name of the open-source Firefox web browser is said to have been derived from a nickname of the red panda: "fire fox".[81][82]

    An anthropomorphic red panda was featured as Master Shifu, the kung fu teacher, in the 2008 film Kung Fu Panda, and its sequels Kung Fu Panda 2 in 2011 and Kung Fu Panda 3 in 2016.[83] The red panda Futa inspired the character of Pabu, the so-called "fire ferret" animal companion (primarily of Bolin), in the U.S. animated TV series The Legend of Korra.[84]


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    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Red pandas are found throughout the Himalayan mountains between 2,200 and 4,800 meters in elevation in northern Burma, Nepal, Sikkim region of India, and the districts of western Sichuan and Yunnan in China. Their geographic range is bounded in the north by the Namlung Valley in the Mugo District and the Lake Rara region of northern Nepal, in the south by the Liakiang Range of western Yunnan, and the northern and eastern boundary is the upper Min Valley of western Sichuan. (Roberts and Gittleman 1984)

    Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Red pandas are approximately 560 to 625 mm long, with relatively long, furry tails, from 370 to 472 mm long. The tails are marked with about 12 alternating red and buff rings, and are not prehensile. The head is round; the rostrum is shortened; and the ears are large, erect, and pointed. Long, coarse guard hairs cover the body, and the undercoat is soft, dense, and woolly. The body is darker in eastern specimens. The face is predominantly white with reddish-brown "tear" marks under the eyes. The fur on the upper side of its body is reddish-brown, while ventrally it is glossy black. The legs are black and the soles of its feet are covered with dense, white hair. There is no sexual dimorphism in color or size between males and females. Front legs are angled inward, leading to its waddling walk. The feet are plantigrade.

    The red panda has a robust skull with a poorly developed zygomatic arch, sagittal crest, and postorbital process. The palatines extend beyond the level of the most posterior molar, the mesopterygoid fossa is constricted anteriorly, and the auditory bullae are small. The post glenoid process is large and anteriorly recurved, and an alisphenoid canal is present.

    The mandible is robust but relatively short, and the mandibular symphysis is constricted. The coronoid process is strongly hooked posteriorly, and the mandibular condyles are large.

    Premolar one and molar one and two are wider than they are long and have accessory cusplets. Each upper premolar has more than one cusp, and premolar three has a well developed paracone and hypocone.

    (Morris 1965, Vaughan 1972, Roberts and Gittleman 1984)

    Range mass: 3.7 to 6.2 kg.

    Range length: 560 to 625 mm.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

    Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

    Average basal metabolic rate: 4.898 W.


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Red pandas live in temperate climates in deciduous and coniferous forests. There is usually an understory of bamboo and hollow trees. The average temperature is 10 to 25 degrees Celsius, and the average annual rainfall is 350 centimeters. (Glatston 1994, Roberts and Gittleman 1984)

    Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

    Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Red pandas eat berries, blossoms, bird eggs, bamboo leaves, and the small leaves of other plants. Bamboo (the leaves of which are the red panda's primary food source) is bent down to bring the leaves within reach of the mouth. Food is grasped in a forepaw and brought to the mouth while sitting, standing, or lying on the back. Food grasped in this manner is inserted in the side of the mouth, sheared, then chewed extensively before it is swallowed. (Glatston 1994, Roberts and Gittleman 1984)

    Animal Foods: eggs

    Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers

    Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )


    Ecosystem Roles
    provided by EOL authors

    The red panda, often called a firefox, doesn’t closely resemble most foxes. These arboreal mammals live in a variety of trees in Nepal, Tibet, northern India, Bhutan, Burma, Sichuan, and China. The red panda is an unusual member of Carnivora because it feeds mainly on bamboo leaves (Pradhan et al., 2001). Red pandas occur in temperate forests at elevations from 2,000–4,300 m, but are most common at 2,400–3,700 m in coniferous fir (Abies densa) forests with undergrowth of bamboo (Yushania microphylla ,Y. maling, Thamnocalamus spathiflorus and Arundinaria; Dorji et al., 2012). There are many features of the red panda that resemble a raccoon, such as its omnivorous tendencies, and its facial appearance. As a result, the red panda has been alternatively placed in the raccoon family (Procyonidae) or the bear family (Ursidae), but it now has its own unique family, the Ailuridae (Wozencraft, 2005).

    The red panda diet resembles that of the giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca. They also like to lounge in trees and eat bamboo, as giant pandas do. There are many different trees used for shelter. Tree use has been determined by finding red panda scat on and around trees. Presence of more scat and observation of red pandas indicate that the most important tree species (Williams, 2004), including stone oaks (Lithocarpus pachyphylla), frodin (Schefflera impressa), cup and saucer magnolia (Magnolia campbellii), and whitebeam (Sorbus cuspidata).Humans (Homo sapiens) have expanded into red panda habitat creating harsh environments and leading to some shifts in food selection (Dorji et al., 2012). Red pandas can feed on fruit, roots, succulent grasses, mushrooms, acorns, lichens, bird eggs, insects and grubs (Dorji et al., 2012). The bamboo leaves red pandas eat mainly come from two different species of bamboo (Arundinaria maling and A. aristata). Bamboo shoots are also utilized for food when available. Some examples of seasonal fruits are: hill partridge (Actinidia strigosa), sorbus (Sorbus microphylla), and himalayan rose (Rosa sericera).

    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    If threatened, red pandas climb a tree or strike out with their semi-retractile claws. One of their primary predators is the snow leopard (Uncia uncia).

    Known Predators:

    • snow leopards (Uncia uncia)


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Red pandas exhibit several visual displays during intraspecific interactions, including arching the tail and back, the slow raising and lowering of the head while emitting a low intensity puffing, turning the head while jaw-clapping, shaking the head from side to side, a bipedal posture with forelegs extended above the head, and staring.

    Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

    Other Communication Modes: scent marks

    Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The maximum lifespan of the red panda is 14 years, but the average is eight to ten.

    Range lifespan
    Status: wild:
    14 (high) years.

    Typical lifespan
    Status: wild:
    8 to 10 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    13.4 years.


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Adult red pandas rarely interact with each other outside of the mating season. During the mating season, scent-markings increase, and the female invites the male to mount her on the ground. Males leave their scent by urinating or rubbing their anogenital area on trees. Both males and females may mate with more than one partner in a season.

    Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

    Mating season is early winter. Births occur in the spring and summer, with most newborns arriving in June. Litters range from one to four young. The gestation period of the red panda is approximately 134 days. Females become noticeably heavy and lethargic around six weeks before parturition. Several days before parturition, the female begins to carry nest materials (sticks, grass, leaves) to a suitable nest site. In the wild, a nest may be a hollow tree or a rock crevice. In captivity, a box, hollow logs, or other artificial dens can serve as a nest. All births take place between 4 PM and 9 AM, which is the period of highest activity.

    The young attain adult size at around 12 months, and are sexually mature at around 18 months.

    (Roberts and Gittleman 1984)

    Breeding interval: Red pandas breed once yearly.

    Breeding season: Mating occurs in early winter.

    Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.

    Average gestation period: 134 days.

    Average time to independence: 18 months.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 months.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 18 months.

    Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

    Average birth mass: 100 g.

    Average gestation period: 116 days.

    Average number of offspring: 2.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male:
    550 days.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female:
    550 days.

    After birth, females quickly clean their young and remain with them for 60 to 90 % of the time for the first few days. Mothers recognize their young by olfactory cues established shortly after birth. After one week, females spend more time away from the nest, returning every few hours to nurse and groom their young, and to keep the nest clean. The young remain nest-bound for around 90 days. They make their first excursion from the nest at night. The young and mother share a close relationship until the young becomes aggressive at the onset of the next breeding season. Males have a small or nonexistent role in raising and caring for the young.

    Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Red pandas are threatened by deforestation and other human activities. Deforestation eliminates nesting sites and sources of food, and isolates populations into small fragments separated by inhospitable habitats. Ailurus fulgens is the occasional target of game hunting, and it is often found in traps set for musk deer. Red pandas are also outcompeted by local livestock for food. Expanding human populations in Asia and the increasing need for land and lumber are significant threats to the survival of this species. Red pandas are protected and listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species, and were declared endangered in March 1988. (Glatston 1994, Roberts and Gittleman 1984)

    US Federal List: no special status

    CITES: appendix ii

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Red pandas have no negative impact on humans. (Glatston 1994)

    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Red pandas are important socially, scientifically and economically. They are the national animal of Sikkim and the mascot of the International Tea Festival in Darjeeling. Red panda skins are used to used for hats and their tails as dusters. Furthermore, red panda skin may still be worn by the bridegroom in a local Chinese wedding. Red pandas have been pivotal in research on the taxonomy of the families Ursidae and Procyonidae. Ailurus fulgens is illegally hunted and sold to zoos or killed for their skin. Very few zoos purchase these illegal specimens, making this a fairly unproductive business, but skins can be found in local villages and are used in cultural ceremonies.

    (Glatston 1994)

    Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; ecotourism ; research and education

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    Red pandas have been a taxonomic enigma, their placement in a carnivoran family has been enormously controversial. They were originally placed in the family Procyonidae because of similarities in teeth, skull, ringed tail, and other morphological characteristics. They were then placed in the family Ursidae because of similarities in DNA. However, unlike other members of these two families, Ailurus fulgens has an Asiatic origin and has never migrated to the new world. Red pandas are considered members of their own family, Ailuridae, based on new molecular systematics research. (Morris 1965, Glatston 1994, Wilson and Reeder 1993)