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Red pandas are primarily herbivores, feeding mostly on bamboo shoots and also grasses, roots, fruit, acorns, small leaves and blossoms. However they have been also known to occasionally feed on eggs, insects, small birds and rodents.
Red pandas are most active at night but will forage at dawn and dusk; they will spend most of their day asleep in high tree branches.
These animals live in mountainous forest habitats in Western China and the Himalayan mountain areas of Nepal, India, Bhutan and Myanmar.
Red pandas live a solitary life, spending much of their lives on their own except during mating season or when a female has young. From 18 months old red pandas are able to breed; females will typically give birth to 1-4 cubs within nest in a hollow tree or rocky crevice during spring and early summer.
The cubs are born blind and do not open their eyes until about 3 weeks old. Young red pandas will stay in the nest for their first 3 months, and will remain close to their mother until they are roughly 12-15 months old.
The main predators of the red panda include snow leopards and martens (related to weasels), some smaller carnivore species and birds of prey have been known to hunt red panda cubs.
To stay safe the red panda will use their colourings as camouflage. When looking down from the trees, their colourings blend well with the forest floor; and when looking up in to the trees, their dark chests blend in to the darkness of the tree canopy.
Main threats to the red panda include hunting and habitat loss. These animals have been hunted for many years for their fur for the clothing industry, and also given traditionally at weddings, as it is thought to ensure a happy marriage. Habitat loss is a major threat to not just the red panda, but numerous species. The destruction of their habitat has increased in recent years due to demand for timber as well as more land for agriculture and development.
The red panda is protected by law and by many conservation programs; they can also be found in many nature reserves that were established to protect the giant panda in China. There is also an international breeding programme for the red panda, which has been successful in zoos worldwide.
Size Head and body length: 50-65cm. Tail length: 28-50cm
Weight 3-6kg. Males are usually heavier than females
Gestation 4 .5 - 5 months
Young 1 - 4
Life span 8 years in the wild, up to 15 years in captivity
The Latin name of the red panda means ‘fire-coloured cat’, however they are not cats; they share more similarities with bears and raccoons.
Red pandas make many different vocalisations, the strangest of which is a ‘quack-snort’.
These animals have an enlarged and elongated wrist bone which acts like an extra thumb; this allows them to grip on to their food.
The red panda is an expert climber; it has strong short legs, retractable claws (much like in house cats) and a long tail for balance which helps them to be agile in the trees.