The Red Panda is a small mammal with a deep rusty-red coloured body and a striped tail. Cream and red facial markings give it a striking masked appearance. This fur provides excellent camouflage against the red-brown lichen found growing throughout their habitat. Its short legs, large claws and textured foot pads make it well equipped for a tree living, or arboreal, lifestyle.
Red Pandas weigh between 3 – 6kg and are approximately 50-64cm in length.
The Red Panda has been listed as Vulnerable with a decrease in population of over 40 per cent in the last 50 years from massive habitat loss in its native range across Nepal, China, India, Myanmar and Bhutan and an increase in human activities such as poaching. The rapid growth of human populations has increased the pressure on land for use in farming and housing and has created a great demand for firewood. This has fragmented the temperate forests, which in turn has segregated Red Panda populations and increased the risk of inbreeding within these smaller groups.
Distribution & Habitat
Red Pandas are found across South and South-east Asia in forested regions at altitudes of 1200 – 4000 metres.
Red Pandas are mostly nocturnal and solitary in nature, however they will form pairs during mating season from mid-January to early March.
The gestation period is approximately 3 – 5 months, at the end of which a mother will build a nest from grass, leaves, sticks and other loose material in a hollow tree or a sheltered rock area.
The young weigh up to 130g at birth and are fully weaned between the age of 6 – 8 months. They will reach sexual maturity at 18 months of age.
Offspring will stay with their mother for up to a year.
Diet & Behaviour
Red Pandas’ main source of food is bamboo, preferring the new shoots and leaves. Due to the lack of nutrients in bamboo, they also eat other grasses, roots, berries, lichens, fruits, grubs, eggs, acorns and small vertebrates such as mice and lizards.