The red panda, despite its name, does not belong to the same family as the giant panda. Although both species share similarities, such as cravings for bamboo leaves, the red panda is related to weasels, raccoons, and otters. Due to habitat loss and excessive poaching for their unique fur, their numbers dwindle, and measures for the conservation of the species are taken around the world.
It is the only species in the genus Ailurus in the family Ailuridae.
There are two subspecies of the red panda–Himalayan red panda, and Chinese red panda.
The two subspecies separated some 250,000 years ago. Scientists suggest that they should be treated as separate species.
Red pandas are native to southwestern Asia and the eastern Himalayas.
The red panda was first described in 1825.
It was done by a French zoologist, Frederic Cuvier.
Red pandas have many alternative names.
They are called the lesser panda, firefox, and the red bear-cat.
Despite its name, it is not related to the giant panda.
A giant panda is a species of bear. The name panda was given to the red panda first, as the giant panda was described approximately 50 years later.
The name “panda” refers to the bamboo diet.
It translates from Nepalese “nigalya ponya,” which means “bamboo eater.”
It is closely related to weasels, skunks, otters, and raccoons.
The red panda is a relatively small mammal, measuring between 51 and 64 centimeters.
The Chinese red panda weighs between 4 and 15 kg, while the Himalayan red panda is smaller, and weighs between 3 and 9.5 kg.
Its tail can measure from 30 to 51 centimeters.
It helps them navigate tree branches, and is used as a blanket during sleep.
They are rusty-colored, which helps them camouflage better.
Trees in their natural habitat are typically covered with reddish moss and lichens. Their underbelly is black, which adds to their camouflage when hidden on tree tops.
On average, they live for up to 15 years.
Although their diet consists of both meat and herbs, they are classified as carnivores.
It refers to their biological order since their diet is mostly vegetarian. The majority of the diet consists of bamboo leaves, but it also feeds on flowers, fruits, insects, eggs, birds, and small mammals.
Red pandas eat 20-30 percent of their body weight in bamboo daily.
It is because of the digestive system of carnivores.
The red panda has a pseudo-thumb.
At first, it evolved to aid with tree climbing but later adapted to support their bamboo diet.
They can climb down trees head-first.
Red pandas are both nocturnal and crepuscular.
They spend the majority of the day sleeping–they can sleep for up to 17 hours.
They are mostly solitary and use two techniques to mark their territory and alert females to their presence.
They primarily use scent glands located at the base of their tails and on their feet, but can also leave piles of excrement that attract females during mating season.
Red pandas reach sexual maturity at 18 months of age.
Female red pandas are fertile for two days each year.
It is both common among red pandas and giant pandas.
Red pandas can undergo embryonic diapause.
The gestation can last for 93 days but can be delayed up to 156 days until the conditions are suitable enough to give birth to cubs.
Female red pandas can give birth to up to four cubs per litter.
Usually, a pair is born. Cubs are born blind but fully furred. They leave the nest after three to four months and are fully independent after a year.
When a red panda feels threatened or provoked, it stands on its hind legs to appear larger.
The internet browser “Firefox” is named after the red panda.
It is also in the browser’s logo.
The third Saturday of September is celebrated as International Red Panda Day.
Ever since 2010, it aims to raise awareness and support for their conservation.
They are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.
They suffer from habitat loss, climate change, and excessive poaching. Currently, their population in the wild is estimated at no more than 10,000 individuals.