World Conservation and Wildlife Trust

Fighting to protect the World's Marine Life, Wildlife, Biodiversity and Population.

The Red Panda

General information on the Red Panda

The Red Panda is mainly found in the temperate forests of the Himalayas, the foothills of Nepal, Southern Tibet, Sikkim, Assam and Bhutan, in the northern hills of Myanma and in Southern China in the provinces of Sichuan. The Red Panda lives between 2,200 metres and 4,800 metres altitude, inhabiting areas of high humidity between 10 and 20 degrees. It preferred habitat is coniferous hill sided forests

The Red Panda's body can reach a length of 56-63cm and their tail 37-47cm. Males can weigh anything from 3.7 to 6.2 kg in comparison to a females 4.2 - 6 kg. Their light reddish brown fur can be compared to one of a raccoon. They are equipped with strong curved claws to hook onto branches making them superb tree climbers. Like the Giant Panda, it has a "false thumb" which is actually an extension of the wrist bone. 

The Red Panda is reported to be both nocturnal and crepuscular (meaning active at dawn and dusk). It tends to sleep stretched out on a branch, dangling its legs over the side if need be. Shortly after awakening, the Red Panda follows certain characteristics of a cat; cleaning its fur and paws by licking them repeatedly. In addition to this, it also rubs its belly and back up against trees. It drinks by plunging its paw into a liquid and licking it. It has a unique style to indicate its territory by excreting a weak musk smelling fluid over nearby tree trunks, this behaviour shows it is in fact a territorial animal. It gathers food through the day and night and climbs to the top of a tree if it senses danger. Despite the name, the Red Panda is in fact not related to the Giant Panda but it follows the categorical stereotype. 

A trait it shares with the Giant Panda is that it too cannot digest cellulose very well; so it too has to eat a large volume of bamboo to survive. It eats an astounding 4 kg of bamboo shoots and 1.5 kg of bamboo leaves every day to maintain its active lifestyle. Again no-one is quite why it chose bamboo as its main nutrition intake but scientist still speculate that it is the simple reason that it is an abundant food source in their habitat. 

Every year, the mating season will take place and between 1 and 4 blind and deaf cubs weighing up to 110 grams will be born into a carefully made nest by a mother. The mother will spend 60-90% of her time with the cubs until they are ready to leave the mother, maturing after 2-3 years. It is known that the average lifespan of the Red Panda is about 8-10 years, and exceptionally - 15 years. 

Reasons for endangerment

The Red panda are classed as Endangered by the I.U.C.N red list of endangered species due to such threats as devastating habitat loss. This destroys food sources causing the red panda to have to travel much further to find its large quantity of food neede to fulfil its nutritional needs. It is reported that the Red Panda population has dropped by 40% in China over the last 50 years causing terrible repercussions for this extraordinary endangered species. 

Article by RHN.