Red Panda

The red panda is a smaller relative of the Giant Panda. Like the giant panda, scientists are not sure where to classify the red panda. It has similarities to both Procyonidae (raccoons) and Ursidae (bears). Currently it is classified as Ursidae though some scientists believe it should have its own family.

The red panda is usually red on its upper surface and black underneath. The face is white with black “tear” tracks under each eye. The Red panda has a long, furry tail with alternating light and dark rings. This tail is not prehensile.

Like the giant panda, the red panda has an elongated bone in its wrist that functions as a thumb and allows it to grab food. The red panda is very agile and uses its tail for balance when climbing.

Food

Though classified as carnivorous, the red panda primarily eats mostly bamboo, though berries, mushrooms, grasses, and bark are also part of its diet. It will also eat birds, eggs, insects, and small rodents. Because it is a carnivore, it does not get much out of the vegetation it eats. This requires the red panda to spend a significant portion of the day feeding. It also has a slow metabolism, which also helps.

Habitat

The red panda lives in bamboo forests in the Himalayas, living at elevations of 7000 to 15,500 feet where the air is cool and moist.

Predators

One of the primary predators of the red panda is the snow leopard. However, it is usually safe when perched up in the smaller branches of a tree.

Social Structure

The red panda is primarily a solitary animal and is usually active at dusk, dawn and at night. It is arboreal and sleeps in nests in the evergreens. When threatened, the red panda either climbs a tree or strikes out with its semi-retractable claw. When not feeding, the red panda spends time grooming or scratching itself on rocks and tree trunks.

Birth & Offspring

Several days before giving birth, a female red panda begins preparing a nest where her young will be born. During the first few days, the mother will spend between 60 and 90 percent of the time with her cubs. After a week, the mother spends more time away looking for food coming back frequently to groom and feed her young.

After 90 days the young leave the nest for the first time. Young red pandas will stay with their mother until the next breeding season. Male red pandas have nothing to do with raising their young.

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