Common Name: Red Panda
Scientific Name: Ailurus fulgens
After the Walkthrough Aviary as part of Fur, Feathers & Scales.
Semi retractable claws make the red panda great climbers.
These animals have an enlarged and elongated wrist bone which acts like an extra thumb; this allows them to grip on to their food.
Red pandas mainly communicate with each other through scent. They leave droppings in particular places and have glands on their feet to leave smelly marks that give information to their neighbours. These scent glands exude a colourless liquid that is odourless to humans.
The red panda tend to be found on the north facing side of their habitat where it is a bit cooler.
Head - body length: 51-73 cm; tail length: 28-49 cm
In the wild
What do red pandas eat? In general, red pandas eat bamboo, in fact, the majority of the red panda’s diet (80-90%) is bamboo shoots and leaves but they will also eat lichen, grasses, acorns, insects, grubs, small vertebrates and bird eggs.
Populations of red pandas live in the Eastern Himalayas with populations found in Nepal, India and Bhutan as well as China and Myanmar. They prefer to live in forests that have a bamboo thicket that is tall, has many shrubs, fallen logs and tree stumps to make it easy for the red panda to reach the bamboo. These forests are often found on mountainsides.
Red panda are able to breed from 18 months old. They breed once per year between January and mid March. Females give birth in tree hollows or rocky crevices; the typical litter size is two but it can be from one to four individuals. The cubs’ eyes open by the time they are 18 days old and they will start to venture out of the nest by 90 days old. Red panda will continue to grow until they reach about one year old.
The primary predator of the red panda is thought to be the snow leopard and occasionally martens. Cubs may be hunted by birds of prey and other small carnivores.
The red panda is under threat because of habitat loss and the fragmentation of populations, poaching, the pet trade, and forest fires which destroy bamboo.
More livestock in the red panda’s territory can lead to over grazing of bamboo and increase contact with unvaccinated domestic dogs (or their poo!) which can give the red panda canine distemper and lead to their decline.
The red panda is now listed on CITES appendix I which means that it is prohibited to trade any part of a red panda internationally. The red panda is also found within many protected areas. Other conservation activities that would be useful to the red panda are habitat restoration by planting bamboo, restricting visitor access in red panda territories, developing an effective fire fighting strategy within local communities, offering a dog vaccination scheme and establishing anti-poaching units. Zoological parks offer a safety net population for potential reintroduction programmes and help to raise awareness of the red panda.
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