The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is endemic to the Himalayas in Bhutan, southern China, India, Laos, Nepal and Burma.
The Red Panda is the state animal in the Indian state of Sikkim.
The Red Panda is also the mascot of the Darjeeling international festivals.
Red Pandas look quite different to the Giant Pandas, they more resemble the appearance of a raccoon or weasel type animal.
The Red Panda is also known as the ‘Lesser PandaWah Cat Bear’, or ‘Firefox’. The reference to being called a ‘Wah’ is because of its distinctive cry. Red Pandas are most closely related to the raccoon and are now in a family (Ailuridea) of their own.
Most can be found in the temperate forests of the Himalayas and some high mountain areas of China and Myanmar (Burma)
The sub-family of Red Pandas is divided into two sub-species:
- Ailurus fulgens styani, which are native to northern Myanmar and south-central China
- Ailurus fulgens fulgens, which is native to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and the Indian states of Assam and Sikkim.
- Ailurus fulgens: Latin: ‘fire-colored cat’.
The Red panda is nocturnal and is mostly active in the early morning and late afternoon spending most of the day resting in trees conserving their energy as their bamboo diet has a low energy content.
Red pandas are normally solitary creatures, however, they form pairs in the breeding season.
RED PANDA CONSERVATION STATUS
Red Pandas are listed as endangered by IUCN and Appendix II under CITES.
The major threats to the red pandas are loss of habitat due to deforestation and forest fragmentation.
Why is the Red Panda Endangered?
Four main reasons are deforestation, poaching, illegal trapping, and the unlawful pet trade that have caused red pandas to become endangered.
Because of the growing human population in China, Red Panda habitats are being cleared to build houses, farms and cities.
This leaves them with nowhere to live and eventually leads to their death.
Red Pandas are solitary animals so populations become separated and this leads to fewer animals mating and raising young animals.
The vast majority of a red panda’s diet is bamboo. But unlike giant pandas that eat almost all parts of the plant, red pandas only eat on the nutrient-rich tips of the leaves and the shoots.
Finding enough bamboo is difficult as the red panda’s habitat keeps shrinking.
Approximately 10,000 pandas die per year, and approximately 70% of those die from deforestation.
Red Pandas are often killed for their coats to make fur hats and clothes.
According to the IUCN, illegal hunting and smuggling are on the rise, as hunters seek out animals for their distinctive pelts and meat. According to the WWF, red panda fur hats have been found for sale in Bhutan.
Farmers will set up animal traps to protect their crops and livestock from wild animals. These traps are intended to stop animals such as wolves or bears.
Sometimes Red pandas will get caught in the trap by accident and die.
Illegal Pet Trade
Red Pandas are very cute animals, so some people want to illegally smuggle them out of their natural habitat and sell them as pets.
The unlawful pet trade removes red pandas from their natural habitat and subjects them to a life in captivity. This is harmful to their health and well-being, and contributes to the decline of the species.
As you can see, there are four main reasons why red pandas are endangered: deforestation, poaching, incidental trapping, and the unlawful pet trade.
All of these activities contribute to the decline of the red panda population and their habitat.
We need to be aware of these threats and take action to protect these beautiful animals.