Discover the 5 Countries and Regions Where Red Pandas Live

Red panda walking on the tree
© AB Photographie/Shutterstock.com

Written by Alanna Davis

Published: October 20, 2023

Share on:

Advertisement


Red pandas may look like raccoons, foxes, cats, or bears, but the truth is that they belong to a category all their own. These unique and adorable creatures have captured the hearts of many on the Internet, with some people asking where they’re able to see one in person. However, you may be surprised to learn that the red panda is not as widespread as you may think. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has categorized the red panda as endangered.

Habitat destruction and hunting are the leading causes of their population decline. Government officials in many countries have put protection laws into place to reduce further damage to their numbers. In addition, organizations like Red Panda Nation (RPN) have been working to reforest their habitat. Conservation groups and environmental activists have had an incredible impact on red panda populations in several countries over the last decade. Due to their efforts, the outlook for this species seems to be positive. Today, we’ll discuss five countries where red pandas still live in the wild.

Red Pandas: A Brief Overview

Red panda walking on the tree

It is not uncommon for a red panda to spend over 60% of their day sleeping.

©AB Photographie/Shutterstock.com

At first glance, you may be wondering what kind of animal red pandas are. Although they may be named after pandas and their appearance may look similar to that of a cat, fox, or raccoon, they are not related to any of the above. Researchers in the 1800s believed that red pandas were closely related to raccoons due to their very similar skeletal structures. However, as time wore on, DNA testing became more widespread, and researchers determined that they were in fact, more closely related to bears. However, even this revelation was incorrect. The most recent genetic evidence has placed red pandas into a genus of their own called Ailuridae. Presently, the red panda is the only living member of this genus, although its extinct relatives, Bataller’s panda and Bristol’s panda, also belong to this classification.

History of the Red Panda’s Habitat

At one point in history, red pandas did inhabit North America, evidenced by fossil remains found in Tennessee. However, these days have long since passed. According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Biology Institute, “They range from northern Myanmar (Burma) to the west Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces of China.” Red pandas are native to forested regions with high altitudes. Some of their habitat is in the Himalayas, spread across countries such as China, Nepal, India, and Myanmar. These are the only known locations that wild red pandas inhabit today.

1. China

Firefox or red panda or lesser panda Ailurus fulgens in close view

Red pandas are predominantly vegetarian.

©DKeith/Shutterstock.com

At one point, the native territory of the red panda spanned a large distance across many of China’s provinces, such as Guizhou, Shanxi, Gansu, and Qinghai, However, the habitat of the red panda has shrunk greatly since then due to deforestation. Today, it is only possible to see this animal in Sichuan, Yunan, and Tibet. Conservationists estimate that there are roughly 6,000 to 7,000 Chinese red pandas that remain in the wild.

2. Nepal

Red panda animal

These adorable creatures can live to be over two decades old.

©AB Photographie/Shutterstock.com

Nepal is home to roughly 1,000 red pandas, with some living in captivity and others in the wild. RPN launched their “Plant a Red Panda Home” initiative in Nepal in 2019 to help reconnect patchy areas of forest and restore the red panda’s natural habitat. Since its inception, they have planted a staggering 50,000 trees. This area has had a positive impact on red panda populations in Nepal, and their numbers appear to be recovering.

3. India

Red pandas are an essential component of their ecosystems.

©Mathias Appel / CC0 – Original / License

There are several locations in India that red pandas currently call home. Certain locations in Sikkim, West Bengal, Darjeeling, and Arunachal Pradesh are ideal habitats for the red panda due to their high altitudes and forested areas. In addition, there are many national parks in India where they have taken up residence. If you’re planning a vacation to the area, Balpakram National Park, Kanchenjunga National Park, and Nokrek National Park are all excellent spots to do some red panda watching.

4. Myanmar

Red pandas have keen senses of sight, smell, and hearing.

©Mathias Appel / CC0 – Original / License

In Myanmar, seeing a red panda is considered a rare occurrence, as these animals are only found in a very limited area in the northernmost part of this country. Even in this small region, red pandas can only be found at elevations of over 2,000 feet. Because of their sparse habitat in Myanmar, estimating the size of their population is extremely difficult.

5. Bhutan

Male red pandas are slightly larger than their female counterparts.

©Mathias Appel / CC0 – Original / License

There is a limited amount of reliable information regarding red panda populations in Bhutan. However, there are several protected areas that red pandas are known to inhabit.

Where Can You See Red Pandas?

If you’re not local to one of the native territories of red pandas, don’t worry. There are still plenty of opportunities for you to see them abroad. For those eager to see one of these adorable creatures in person, zoos like the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Zoo Knoxville, Cincinnati Zoo, and many more all offer the public opportunities to meet them. Many of these zoos are involved in conservation efforts as well. There have been more red panda births at Zoo Knoxville than any other location in America, giving them the title of “The Red Panda Capital of the World.” Additionally, the Cincinnati Zoo works in conjunction with RPN to support their education and outreach programs.

LocationAbundance of Red Pandas
ChinaHighest concentration of red pandas
NepalModerate amount of red pandas
IndiaModerate amount of red pandas
MyanmarLimited population of red pandas
BhutanExtremely limited population of red pandas


Share this post on:
About the Author

Alanna is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering insects, animals, and travel. In addition to writing, she spends her time tutoring English and exploring the east end of Long Island. Prior to receiving her Bachelor's in Economics from Stony Brook University, Alanna spent much of her time studying entomology and insect biology.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.