It's International Red Panda Day! Let's learn more about these unique and, let's face it, adorable animals.
Scientific Name: Ailurus fulgens
Scientists have had a tough time figuring out exactly where red pandas fit in the tree of life. In the past, some scientists thought red pandas were a type of raccoon; others thought red pandas were a type of bear, perhaps small relatives of giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). The latest genetic research suggests red pandas represent their own taxonomic family: Ailuridae. While red pandas are related to raccoons, current research rules out a familial link between red pandas and giant pandas, even though they share a name.
Habitat: Red pandas live in mountainous, temperate forests with bamboo understories (underlying layers of vegetation). They prefer high altitudes and cool climates.
Geographic Range: Nepal, Myanmar, southwestern China, India, and Bhutan
Diet: Even though red pandas aren't related to giant pandas, they eat certainly eat like giant pandas! According to the IUCN, a red panda's diet is 98% bamboo. Red pandas also eat roots, leaves, fruits, insects, and bird eggs.
Behavior: These small arboreal (tree-dwelling) mammals usually live alone, except during breeding season and when mothers are raising their babies.
Status in the Wild: Endangered. Red pandas are losing their habitat due to deforestation. Poaching is also contributing to population decline.
- Alternative names for the red panda include "firefox," "lesser panda," and "red cat-bear"
- Red pandas have furry feet to help them stay warm
- Red pandas make funny noises, including a squeaking sound called "twittering"
- Like giant pandas, red pandas have "thumbs" that help them grasp bamboo
If your family would like to learn more about red pandas, check out the Red Panda Network's activity book for fun, red-panda-themed activities: