About the Red Panda
The Red Panda is a unique animal, with its closest relatives being the racoon and coati's of the Americas. Here are a few facts that you need to know about Red Pandas.
Red Pandas spend most of their time in trees. Their semi-retractable claws help them move from branch to branch with dexterity.
Red Pandas are known as an ‘arboreal’ mammal, which is an animal which spends most of their life in the trees. Red Pandas have strong, curved and sharp semi-retractable claws which are used to gain extra grip when crossing and descending tree branches to reach their bamboo meal.
Red Pandas sport a false thumb, which is actually an extension of the radial sesamoid bone.
Similarly to the Giant Panda, Red Pandas have a false thumb which allows it to grasp narrow tree branches, leaves and fruit. When descending a tree, the Red Panda rotates its ankles and grips with this thumb to give it additional control on branches.
A Red Pandas tail is not prehensile, meaning it cannot grip onto branches. Rather it is used for support and balance.
Pandas use their tails to support their arboreal lifestyle. In addition to balance, their long, thick, busy tails are also used to cover their body in cold weather for warmth. The alternating lines on their tails are suitably adapted for camouflage in their habitat of moss- and lichen-covered trees.
An individual Red Panda can be recognised by its facial markings.
Red Pandas are notorious for their white eyebrows and teardrop markings on their face, and researchers use this to identify individual Red Pandas, as every Panda's facial markings are unique!
There are two known subspecies of Red Panda. Ailurus fulgens fulgens found in Nepal and India and Ailurus fulgens styani found predominately in China
Ailurus fulgens fulgens (left hand image): Found in Nepal, northeastern India (West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh), Bhutan, and part of China.
Ailurus fulgens styani (right hand image): Only found in China (in the Hengduan Mountains in Sichuan and the East Nujiang River of Yunnan Province) and northern Myanmar.
While Red Pandas have the digestive capability to consume a carnivorous diet they rely almost entirely on Bamboo for food.
The Red Panda’s diet is very unusual for a mammal and consists mostly of bamboo. When the weather is warm enough, they also eat insects and fruit. Although the Giant Panda eats almost every part of the bamboo plant (except the roots), the Red Panda only eats the youngest, most tender shoots and leaves.
Red Pandas are generally solitary animals
Red Pandas are generally solitary, but there are a couple of exceptions to the rule. First, young Red Pandas grow relatively slowly, so they develop extended associations with their mothers that last for over a year. Second, Red Pandas have short relationships during the annual breeding season.
Red Pandas use their thick fur to shield themselves against their cold climate.
Red Pandas live at altitudes of around 2,200-4,800m, where temperatures rarely vary from between 10-25 Degrees Celcius. The soles of their paws are covered in thick fur which is used for insulation on snow-covered surfaces.