Scientific name: Ailurus fulgens
Country: Bhutan, India, Nepal, Laos, Myanmar, China.
Diet: Bamboo, grasses - graminivore, roots - radicivore, nuts - nucivore, occasionally insects and rodents.
Food & feeding: Herbivore
Habitats: Temperate forest, woodland
Conservation status: Vulnerable
Relatives: Raccoon, kinkajou, coati
Description: The red panda's fur is long, thick and fuzzy to protect it against rain and cold in its mountainous habitat at up to 5000m altitude. Its colour helps the panda to blend with the reddish moss and white lichen growing on fir trees. These pandas have fur on the soles of their feet to aid grip on wet branches and to keep them warm when walking on snow. They are 50 - 60 cm long and weigh between three and six kgs.
Lifestyle: They are excellent climbers, using their strong claws to grasp branches. Their jaws are strong and the teeth and forelimbs are specially adapted for manipulating and crushing bamboo shoots and leaves, which make up 95% of their diet. Red pandas are nocturnal, spending most of their day asleep in trees. As their bamboo diet is low in nutrition, sleeping for much of the day may help save energy.
Family & friends: Adult red pandas are essentially solitary, only coming together to mate.
Keeping in touch: Red pandas have glands located near their anus that produce a musky scent which may be used in scent-marking territories. They can also make a series of hisses and snorts when startled.
Growing up: The female usually gives birth to twins and they are weaned at four to five months. When suckling the cubs, she must eat three times the normal amount of bamboo in order to produce rich milk. The cubs stay with the mother for roughly a year.
The word panda comes from the Nepalese 'Nigalya ponya' which means bamboo eater. The red panda is also known as the lesser panda or red cat bear. In China it is called 'hon ho' or 'fire fox'.
Conservation news: The major threat to the red panda is habitat destruction. The loss of the forests which support the bamboo continues at an alarming rate, due to demand for land and timber by increasing human populations in China and Nepal.