The red panda, also known as the lesser panda, doesn’t look anything like a panda. It looks quite a bit like a raccoon however. At the moment the red panda is classified as being in the same family as the raccoon but some believe that the red panda belongs in the same family as the giant panda. There are even those that argue that it might be more accurate to place the giant panda and the red panda in a family of their own. The red panda, like the giant panda, even has some characteristics of both raccoons and bears.
A red panda is about 20 to 26 inches long with a 12 to 20 inch long tail and weighs 12-20 pounds. Red pandas have retractable claws and are slightly large than domesticated cats. Their fur is light reddish brown on top with their undersides being blackish. This is unusual as in most animals the underside is lighter. The fur on their face is very lightly colored and they have tear marking. Their tails are bushy and have six rings.
The red panda lives in mountainous forest areas. They dwell in southeastern Asia, including China. They share their habitat with that of the giant panda.
Like the giant panda, the red panda’s diet consists mainly of bamboo. They also, however, eat berries, fruit, mushrooms, roots, acorns, lichen, grasses, young birds, eggs, small rodents, and insects. In captivity, however, red panda’s are fed meat and will eat it with no trouble at all. The red panda is nocturnal and does little besides eat and sleep.
Red pandas start to mature sexually at 18 months but do not hit full maturity until they are about 1-2 years old. The only time red pandas ever have any contact with each other in the wild is between the end of December and the middle of February when they mate. The pregnancy of the red panda lasts 112 to 158 days. She will give birth to one to four young. Red panda births also happen between the end of May and the beginning of July. Oddly enough, red panda births also only occur between 4 P.M and 9 A.M. which is the period of time when they are active. The young will be abandoned by the mother during the beginning of the next mating season.
There is no accurate estimate of how many red pandas are left in the wild. In China it is hunted for its fur. They make hats from the fur that are supposed to bring good luck to the wearer. These hats are often worn by Chinese newlyweds. The skins of red pandas are also often used in ceremonies including wedding where the groom will sometimes carry hide. The red pandas are also threatened by the same thing that threatens so many other species: habitat loss. The continual clearing of the forests is endangering such a vast number of the world’s amazing animals.
There are a few preserves that protect the red panda with laws against poaching but it is not enough and their population will continue to decrease unless more is done to help this wonderful, unique species. If you are able and wish to help, please adopt a red panda.