Red panda

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Red pandas are small omnivores living in central Asia. In general, they are shy, solitary animals. Although their name makes it sound like they are a type of panda, they are far from related. They aren’t even in the same family! These animals were probably called a type of panda because they share their diet and some of their range with giant pandas. Red pandas are so distinct from other animals that they have their own family. They are thought to be closest related to raccoons and once were in the same family as raccoons. These red mammals spend most of their time in the trees, and even sleep up there. They are nocturnal, so they sleep in the day. Red pandas’ long, bushy tail, which makes them look almost like raccoons, is used for balance in the trees. These animals are also called lesser pandas and red cat-bears. Their scientific name means “fire cat.” There are currently two subspecies of this animal, with one being smaller and lighter colored than the other. Surprisingly, red pandas were discovered in 1825, 48 years before giant pandas were discovered! Unlike almost all other mammals, adult red pandas have fur on their paws. This helps them climb on slippery surfaces.

Size

Adult red pandas are from 20 to 25 inches (50-64 cm) in length not including their tail. Their tail can be from 11-20 inches (28-50 inches) long. Their whole body weighs from 6.6 to 13.2 pounds (3-6 kg). You may wonder how red pandas compare in size to giant pandas. Red pandas weigh about as much as a 3 month old giant panda. An adult giant panda weighs about 20 times as much as an adult red panda and is about 3 times as long. The bear’s tail is about only one third of the length of the red panda’s, however.

Diet

Red pandas are primarily herbivores, but they occasionally let some animals sneak into their diet. Like giant pandas, these mammals feed almost entirely on bamboo, but this plant does not have many nutrients. To compensate for the lack of nutrition, these animals sleep almost half of the day. They also supplement their diet of bamboo with berries, acorns, flowers, other plant leaves, and occasionally bird eggs. As with giant pandas, red pandas have a thumb-like finger that helps them grip the bamboo stalks they are eating. In the national zoo, they eat dog food, grapes, apples, yams, and obviously bamboo.

Habitat and range

The red panda lives in China India, Nepal, and Myanmar. You may know that the Himalayan mountains are in this area, but the red panda does not live much on these mountains. They live in elevations between 7,200 to 15,700 feet (about 2,200-4,800 m). This is not as high as the Himalayas go, but they leave the higher elevations to other animals. As can be seen by their diet, they like areas with bamboo as well. They like trees, which they use for sunbathing and escaping from predators such as snow leopards and wild dogs. When descending trees, they climb down head first.

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Status and threats

The red panda is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Redlist. This ranking is half way in between ‘Least Concern’ and ‘Critically Endangered.’ There are only an estimated 10,000 adult red pandas left in the wild. As with many animals, habitat loss is a large threat to the red panda. In China, this species’ population is thought to have decreased by 40% in just the past 50 years. They are also threatened in Nepal. These mammals are also hunted for their skin and are sometimes used in China to make hats for newlyweds. These hats traditionally symbolize a happy marriage.

Vocalizations

Red pandas have a variety of noises that they make. Click here to listen to one of their sounds describes as “twittering.” Another noise they make, many people call a “quack-snort.” Although I do not have a recording of this, you can imagine how funny that would sound. Other noises include, bleats, squeals, and loud breathing. When threatened they make a noise described as an ear-splitting, grumbly barking sound. This may be the same as the “quack-snort” mentioned earlier.

Mating and young

Mating season occurs during the early winter, and despite spending most of their time in the trees, red pandas mate on the ground. Females become noticeably heavier and lethargic about six weeks before giving birth. A few days before her young are born, she starts gathering nest materials (sticks, grass, and leaves) and carrying them to the nesting site she has chosen. After a gestation period of around 134 days (about four and a half months) the female gives birth to a litter of one to four young. They are born in between 4PM and 9AM in a hollow in a tree or a rock crevice. At two to three weeks of age, the young can see and hear for the first time. They are born gray, but at around 20 weeks old, their coat changes gradually to red. At this time their mother stops nursing them. They stay in this nest for about 90 days. At one year of age they have reached their maximum size, and at 1 1/2 years they are ready to have young of their own.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

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Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Red panda – Greg5030
  • Red panda range – The Emirr
  • Mystery animal – Calyponte

One Response

  1. Larry Madson
    Larry Madson at |

    Next is a Adelie penguin

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