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Red Panda facts

Posted in: India, Posted in: India Wildlife


Red Panda Facts

Like their larger namesake (not a relative!), the Giant Panda, Red Panda’s fascinate us humans and have that ‘cute factor’ which causes many zoos to promote them as one of the key species of their collections. However, in this blog we reflect on their status in the wild and look at the key Wild Red Panda facts

Red Pandas in the wild

Unlike the very narrow range of the Giant Panda, the Red Panda has a wider geographic range, with viable populations in NE India, Nepal, northern Myanmar (Burma), as well as in central China. Like Giant Panda’s they can be found in typically wet, mountainous areas, with bamboo forests and other higher altitude trees and plants. Red Pandas are considered an endangered species and are on the IUCN Red List. The main reason for their decline is the destruction of their habitat, due to illegal logging and conversion of their key habitats to land for agriculture.

How many Red Pandas are left?

The red panda has been classified as Endangered by the IUCN because its wild population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals and continues to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression, although red pandas are protected by national laws in their range countries. Singalila is the best place in India to see this elusive and rare mammal

Red Panda size and description

It has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs. Red Pandas are much smaller than Giant Panda’s and are also considered to be close relatives of the racoon family. They actually have their own scientific taxonomy called Ailuridae and you have to go back 4-5 million years to find a direct ancestor. They range in size from 20 to 26 inches or 50-70 cm; this does not include their warm, bushy tail – around 18 inches or 45cm in length – which they use to wrap around themselves for protection from the sub-zero temperatures which are common at altitude in the Himalayas. They weigh between 12-20 lbs or 5-9 kg; which as a comparison would be roughly equivalent to a medium weight household cat.

Red Panda Food

One of the significant advantages of Red Pandas compared to their notoriously fussy namesake, is that they enjoy a much more varied diet. Yes, they are very partial to a bit of bamboo- it consists of 85 to 95 percent of their diet. Red pandas eat bamboo shoots and bamboo leaf tips, but also eat fruit, acorns, roots, insects and eggs. You will only find Red Pandas where a high percentage of the forest canopy is bamboo.

Red Panda behaviour

As you may well be aware, the Red Panda is very much an arboreal species, spending much of the day in the trees and sleeping up in the higher branches at night to ensure it is safe from predators. They are more active and tend to forage at dusk or dawn; or during the night. They are quite a shy, secretive animal and only exhibit more visible behaviour during the mating season which generally lasts from December to January.

The red panda is territorial and solitary except during mating season. The species is generally quiet except for some twittering, tweeting, and whistling communication sounds. A point worth noting with rapid temperature increases in the Himalayas is that the Red Panda is very heat sensitive and cannot survive with temperatures above 25 Celsius.

For more Red Panda facts and for the chance to see a Red Panda in the wild, check out our Red Panda safari in Singalila National Park

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