Red Panda

Ailurus fulgens

Last updated: March 17, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Abeselom Zerit/Shutterstock.com

There are less than 3,000 left in the wild!

Red Panda Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Carnivora
Family
Ailuridae
Genus
Ailurus
Scientific Name
Ailurus fulgens

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Red Panda Conservation Status

Red Panda Locations

Red Panda Locations

Red Panda Facts

Prey
Bamboo, Berries, Eggs
Name Of Young
Cub
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
There are less than 3,000 left in the wild!
Estimated Population Size
less than 3,000
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Rusty coloured thick fur and striped face
Other Name(s)
Lesser Panda, Fire Fox
Gestation Period
4 months
Habitat
High-altitude mountain forest
Predators
Snow Leopard, Marten, Human
Diet
Omnivore
Average Litter Size
3
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Common Name
Red Panda
Number Of Species
1
Location
Himalayas
Slogan
There are less than 3,000 left in the wild!
Group
Mammal

Red Panda Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Red
  • White
Skin Type
Fur
Top Speed
24 mph
Lifespan
8 - 12 years
Weight
3kg - 6.2kg (7lbs - 14lbs)
Length
60cm - 120cm (24in - 47in)
Age of Sexual Maturity
18 months
Age of Weaning
5 months

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Red Panda Classification and Evolution

The Red Panda is a cat-sized species of carnivorous mammal that is found inhabiting the temperate mountain forests on the slopes of the Himalayas. As their name suggests, they are related to the larger and more famous Giant Panda (although the exact closeness of their connection still remains uncertain to science), along with also sharing a number of characteristics with the Raccoon and so Red Pandas are classified in a family of their own. The Red Panda is also known by a number of different names in their native regions including the Lesser Panda, the Red Cat-Bear and as the Fire Fox in Nepal. Like their much larger cousin, the Red Panda is an animal that relies on bamboo to feed and with rapid deforestation of these unique areas there is less and less for these animals to eat, which has ultimately led to the Red Panda being listed as being an endangered species.

Red Panda Anatomy and Appearance

The Red Panda is a very cute animal that is about the same size as a large housecat, with a cat-like face and a long, bushy tail. Their rusty coloured thick fur covers their body with the exception of their almost white coloured ears, cheeks, muzzle and spots above their eyes. The Red Panda also has reddish brown stripes that run down either side of their white muzzle, along with alternating light and dark rings on their tails. The Red Panda also has semi-retractable claws to aid climbing and stability amongst the branches and strong, tough jaws which they use to chew on bamboo. Like the Giant Panda, the Red Panda also has an extended wrist bone which acts a bit like a thumb, allowing them to hold onto bamboo whilst they are chewing it. The Red Panda also has dense fur which helps to keep it warm during the cold winter along with having thick and woolly fur on the soles of their feet which not only helps to keep their feet warm but also prevents them from slipping on the wet branches.

Red Panda Distribution and Habitat

The Red Panda is found inhabiting the temperate forests in the Himalayas at altitudes of between 1,800 and 4,000 meters. These high mountain slopes tend to be covered in deciduous hardwood forest with a bamboo under-storey that is crucial to the Red Panda’s survival. Their historical range extended through Bhutan, Nepal, India, Myanmar and China where their range overlaps that of the even rarer Giant Panda, but today the Red Panda is extinct from certain areas and population numbers are rapidly declining in others. Due to the fragile ecology of their native, mountain forests and their reliance on eating bamboo, the Red Panda is being pushed into smaller and more isolated pockets of their once wide range with other factors including climate change affecting the lack of abundance of bamboo.

Red Panda Behaviour and Lifestyle

The Red Panda is a nocturnal and generally solitary animal with the exception of males and females coming together to mate during the breeding season. Red Pandas spend the daylight hours sleeping in the branches high in the tree canopy with their long, bushy tail wrapped around them to keep them warm. Although they are known to feed in the trees, they usually come down to the ground after dusk to begin foraging in the safety of the darkness. The Red Panda is a territorial animal that marks its patch with droppings, urine and releasing a musky secretion from its anal glands. They are also known to communicate between one another using short whistles and squeaks. The Red Panda is a strong and agile climber that not only sleeps safely in the branches during the day but also can dart up a trunk if threatened by predators aided by its sharp claws.

Red Panda Reproduction and Life Cycles

Red Pandas usually breed between January and March and after a gestation period that lasts for around four months, the female gives birth to 1 – 5 cubs that are born blind and although they begin to open their eyes within a couple of weeks, the eyes of the Red Panda cubs don’t fully open until they are about a month old. Before her cubs are born, the female Red Panda builds a nest in a tree-hole, roots or bamboo thicket which is lined with leaves, moss and other soft plant material. Red Panda cubs may not leave the nest until they are three months old and are strong enough to negotiate the tricky branches. They feed solely on bamboo until they are old enough to stomach other foods and reach their full adult size after about a year. There is however a high mortality rate in young Red Pandas with up to 80% not reaching full adulthood.

Red Panda Diet and Prey

Although the Red Panda belongs to the carnivorous group of mammals, their diet is almost vegetarian as bamboo shoots comprise the majority of their food. However, as the Red Panda is a mammal it has a short digestive system meaning that although bamboo holds little nutrition anyway, they are unable to get the most of their meals. Unlike the Giant Panda though, the Red Panda will also eat a variety of other foods to supplement its diet like acorns, berries and grasses, along with grubs, mice, lizards, chicks and birds’ eggs. Along with its excellent sight, smell and hearing the Red Panda also has long, white whiskers on its snout which help it to navigate through the dense vegetation in the darkness of night, when it is most actively foraging for food. For a complete list of foods red pandas eat, check out out “What Do Pandas Eat?” page.



Red Panda Predators and Threats

Due to the fact that Red Pandas inhabit high-altitude mountain forests, they actually have fewer natural predators than they would have living further down the slopes. Snow Leopards and Martens are the only real predators of the Red Panda along with Birds of Prey and small carnivores that prey on the smaller and more vulnerable cubs. The biggest threat to the Red Panda however is people who have affected this species mainly through deforestation of their incredibly unique habitats. Due to Human encroachment, illegal hunting and poaching there have been drastic declines in the Red Panda population numbers with these populations also being pushed into more separate, isolated areas. One of the main concerns with this is that these populations will although be threatened by inbreeding leading to less successful individuals in these areas.

Red Panda Interesting Facts and Features

Living high in the cold mountain climates means that Red Pandas are well adapted to keeping warm with their dense fur and blanket-like tail. However, on really cold days Red Pandas have been known to sunbathe high in the canopy to warm themselves up whilst sleeping during the day. A study conducted in 2001 found that 79% of the Red Pandas reported where found within 100 meters of the nearest body of water, indicating that a good water source may also to be crucial to their already strict habitat requirements. Evidence also suggests that Red Panda reproduction rates have been declining which is believed to be related to the decline in the foods that they eat in order to survive and reproduce successfully.

Red Panda Relationship with Humans

Red Pandas have been admired by people for years but many of the experiences that we have with them are in zoos and animal institutions as these rare and secretive animals can be incredibly hard to spot in the wild. This is however one of the factors in their demise as one Indian village reported that 47 Red Pandas were captured and sold to zoos around the world in just one year. Human interference of their unique and specialised habitats though is believed to be the biggest reason for the decline in Red Panda numbers throughout the Himalayas with deforestation mainly in the form of logging being one of the primary culprits. As with the Giant Panda, the Red Panda relies heavily on high-altitude bamboo thickets to survive and without them it has no-where else to go.

Red Panda Conservation Status and Life Today

Today, the Red Panda is listed on the IUCN Red List as being an animal species that is Endangered in its natural environment and is therefore severely threatened by extinction in the near future. There are estimated to be less than 3,000 Red Pandas remaining in the wild with the majority of these inhabiting small protected zones within national parks. A number of captive breeding programs have also been established in Asia, Europe and North America and appear to be having relative success in their work.

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Red Panda FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do Red Pandas make good pets?

The short answer is no, red pandas do not make good pets. Not only are they endangered, but they make heavy use of scent-marking and would become stinky neighbors in any home. They are illegal to own and caring for them would be extremely difficult even if it wasn’t.

Are Red Pandas herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Red Pandas are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.

What Kingdom do Red Pandas belong to?

Red Pandas belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What phylum do Red Pandas belong to?

Red Pandas belong to the phylum Chordata.

What class do Red Pandas belong to?

Red Pandas belong to the class Mammalia.

What family do Red Pandas belong to?

Red Pandas belong to the family Ailuridae.

What order do Red Pandas belong to?

Red Pandas belong to the order Carnivora.

What genus do Red Pandas belong to?

Red Pandas belong to the genus Ailurus.

What type of covering do Red Pandas have?

Red Pandas are covered in Fur.

Where do Red Pandas live?

Red Pandas live in the Himalayas.

In what type of habitat do Red Pandas live?

Red Pandas live in high-altitude mountain forests.

What are some predators of Red Pandas?

Predators of Red Pandas include snow leopards, martens, and humans.

What is the average litter size for a Red Panda?

The average litter size for a Red Panda is 3.

What is an interesting fact about Red Pandas?

There are less than 3,000 Red Pandas left in the wild!

What is the scientific name for the Red Panda?

The scientific name for the Red Panda is Ailurus fulgens.

What is the lifespan of a Red Panda?

Red Pandas can live for 8 to 12 years.

What is a baby Red Panda called?

A baby Red Panda is called a cub.

How many species of Red Panda are there?

There is 1 species of Red Panda.

What is the biggest threat to the Red Panda?

The biggest threat to the Red Panda is habitat loss.

What is another name for the Red Panda?

The Red Panda is also called the lesser panda or fire fox.

How many Red Pandas are left in the world?

There are less than 3,000 Red Pandas left in the world.

How fast is a Red Panda?

A Red Panda can travel at speeds of up to 24 miles per hour.

What's the difference between a red panda and a raccoon?

Red pandas differ from raccoons in their preferred habitats and diets. Raccoons are also gray and white, while red pandas are rusty red and white in appearance.

What's the difference between a red panda and a panda?

There are many differences between pandas and red pandas. Pandas are much larger than red pandas, and red pandas have long tails, while pandas don’t. However, they have similar diets and occupy the same habitat.

How to say Red Panda in ...
Bulgarian
Червена панда
Catalan
Panda vermell
Czech
Panda červená
Danish
Rød panda
German
Kleiner Panda
English
Red Panda
Esperanto
Malgranda pando
Spanish
Ailurus fulgens
Finnish
Kultapanda
French
Petit panda
Hebrew
פנדה אדום
Croatian
Crveni panda
Hungarian
Vörös macskamedve
Indonesian
Panda Merah
Italian
Ailurus fulgens
Japanese
レッサーパンダ
Dutch
Kleine panda
English
Rød panda
Polish
Panda mała
Portuguese
Panda-vermelho
English
Panda roşu
Slovenian
Mačji panda
Swedish
Kattbjörn
Turkish
Küçük panda
Vietnamese
Gấu trúc đỏ
Chinese
小熊貓
Sources
  1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animal, The Definitive Visual Guide To The World's Wildlife
  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals
  3. David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia
  4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species
  5. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals
  6. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals
  7. David W. Macdonald, Oxford University Press (2010) The Encyclopedia Of Mammals
  8. About Red Pandas, Available here: http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/wildlife/pandas/panda_red.html
  9. Red Panda Facts, Available here: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/red-panda/
  10. Red Panda Diet, Available here: http://www.bearlife.org/red-panda.html
  11. Red Panda Information, Available here: http://www.animalinfo.org/species/carnivor/ailufulg.htm
  12. Red Panda Conservation, Available here: http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/714/0

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