Red Panda: The Cute, Cat-Sized Creature That's Being Lost to Logging and Hunting
September 26, 2014
As cute as they are, and despite their name, believe it or not, red pandas aren’t closely related to giant pandas. Genetically, they are closer to skunks and raccoons. Other names for the red panda are lesser panda and red cat-bear. Red pandas are of the order Carnivora, making them carnivores, but their diet consists almost entirely of bamboo leaves.
Red pandas are about the size of a housecat at 12 to 20 pounds and averaging 2 feet in length. Their red fur is long and soft, covering the entire body including the soles of their paws. Red pandas are solitary animals. The only time they get together is during mating season, and when mothers are raising their cubs.
Red pandas spend much of the day sleeping on tree branches or in tree hollows. They do best at temperatures between about 63°F and 77°F, and during winter months, they spend over half their time looking for and eating bamboo, and conserving energy and body heat.
Almost half of the red panda’s habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas, in regions that are losing nesting trees and bamboo to logging and other forms of deforestation. This has caused a decline in red panda populations, and in addition, they are often killed in traps meant for other animals. Red pandas are also hunted for their fur in China.
Red pandas have a long gestation period and small litters, which makes recovery from declining populations difficult. Cubs are born blind and deaf, and stay in the care of their mother for about a year, until the next litter is born.