The Red Panda despite its name is not related to the Giant Panda, in fact it is not a bear species at all but more closely related to weasels, skunks and raccoons, with two known subspecies the Chinese Red Panda and the Himalayan Red Panda, it is also known as the red bear cat or cat bear or occasionally the lesser Panda.
It is listed as an endangered species with an estimated 10,000 surviving in the wild impacted by poaching, and loss of habitat which has led to inbreeding which has also adversely affected the population.
About the size of a domestic cat (20 inch body and 15inch tail are average) with shorter front legs giving a waddling walk, reddish brown fur and long bushy tail it is a popular animal in zoos worldwide. Males are generally slightly bigger and heavier than females and the species has semi retractable claws and a false thumb like pandas to aid climbing. Its thick fur, tail for balance, pads on feet and claws make it a capable climber and well adapted to snow, it is one of the few climbing species that turns its ankle round to control its descent when climbing down head first.
It is normally active from early evening to early morning and are solitary and due to diet do little but eat and sleep. They can breed once they are 18 months old and are fully mature by 3 years. They normally give birth to 1-2 cubs (up to 4) in late June / July which are blind until about 18 days old. The young will normally stay with mother for a year, life span is around 8 years but 15 year old individuals have been known
Like the Giant Panda, the Red Panda feeds mainly on bamboo but is an omnivore eating eggs, fish, insects and small birds when the opportunity is presented, they also eat maple and mulberry leaves. As they cant digest cellulose they have to eat a great deal of bamboo preferring the more easily digested shoots. Unusually they can taste artificial sweeteners like aspartame being the only non-primate species to be able to do so. Predators include snow leopard and humans and they prefer to climb when threatened.
Red Pandas inhabit the foothills of the Himalayan’s across Tibet , China , Burma and India. They normally level at an elevation of between 7000-16000ft preferring mixed forest with plenty of long established bamboo