Description: The Beautiful Red Panda, or Bear-Cat, is one of the most striking animals in the world. It looks somewhat like a cross between a cat, a bear, and a raccoon. It has reddish-brown fur with a long, striped tail. Its face is mostly white with dark stripes over the eyes like a raccoon. It has a conspicuous black nose. Its arms, legs and belly are darker in color. The Red Panda normally weighs about 15-20 pounds. While the Red Panda shares characteristics of raccoons and bears, it is classified as its own species. Much like the larger Giant Panda, the Red Panda has a thumb-like appendage which is used to grasp bamboo.
Diet: Like the Giant Panda, the Red Panda’s diet consists mostly of bamboo. Red Pandas spend as much as 13 hours per day searching for food. Unlike the Giant Panda, however, Red Pandas only eat the most tender leaves and shoots of the bamboo plant. Red Pandas chew each bite thoroughly to help digest the tough plant. It will occasionally feed on insects or eggs.
Range/Habitat: The Red Panda has a wider range than the Giant Panda. They are found in the cool, temperate forests of the Himalayan Mountain nations of Nepal, northern Myanmar and southwestern China. They are found at high altitudes (from 4,900-13,000 feet) where there is little fluctuation in temperature.
Young/Reproduction: Female Red Pandas give birth to two cubs after a gestation period of 135 days. Cubs are fully grown after a period of one year. Red Pandas grow slowly for their size which ultimately results in a slow rate of reproduction.
Habits: Red Pandas are crepuscular(they are active at dusk and dawn). Like the Giant Panda, the Red Panda is a solitary animal. Red Pandas communicate territorial boundaries by depositing urine and secretions on trees.
Status: Red Panda populations have declined dramatically in the 1900′s. The destruction of their cloud-forest habitat to make room for farms and grazing animals has resulted in the loss of foraging and nesting places. Logging and cheese production in Nepal has further precipitated its decline. The introduction of feral dogs and recent demand for the Red Panda’s unusual fur have also contributed. 85 zoos throughout the world currently participate in Red Panda conservation efforts. Both the Knoxville Zoo and the National Zoo have had success in breeding Red Pandas in captivity. Over 300 cubs have been born in zoos in the last two decades.