108.
Red Panda
(Ailurus fulgens)
VU
Overview
The scientific name of this rare and beautiful species literally means ‘fire-coloured cat’. Its striking red fur is thought to help it blend in with the reddish-brown moss that grows on the branches of the trees in which it lives. Like its relative, the giant panda, with which it shares much of its habitat, the red panda has evolved to feed almost exclusively on bamboo. Individuals must spend a great deal of time eating just to maintain their bodyweight – female red pandas have been known to eat up to 200,000 bamboo leaves in a single day! Sadly, red pandas are declining throughout their range as a result of deforestation, increased agriculture, hunting and pressure from growing human populations.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Further research into ecology and distribution, so that key areas of habitat can be protected. Establish extent and intensity of current threats so that populations can be managed effectively.
Distribution
Western China and the Himalayan Mountain chain of Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Myanmar.
Media from ARKive
ARKive image - Red panda infant
ARKive video - Red panda - overview
ARKive image - Red panda carrying cub, captive
ARKive video - Red pandas feeding
ARKive image - Young red panda
ARKive video - Red panda climbing tree
ARKive video - Red panda feeding
ARKive image - Red panda portrait
ARKive video - Red panda (subspecies <i> fulgens</i>) - overview
ARKive image - Rear view of red panda head showing typical pale ear tips
ARKive video - Red panda (subspecies <i>fulgens</i>) climbing tree and feeding
ARKive image - Red panda peering round tree branch
ARKive image - Red panda in tree
ARKive video - Red panda (subspecies <i>fulgens</i>) sitting in tree branches
ARKive image - Red panda with mouth open, captive
ARKive video - Red panda (subspecies <i>styani</i>) - overview
ARKive image - Red panda portrait
ARKive video - Juvenile red panda (subspecies <i>styani</i>)
ARKive video - Red panda (subspecies <i>styani</i>)
ARKive image - Red panda in vegetation
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ailuridae
The species appears to have evolved in Pakistan and Western Europe. Red panda-like fossils have been found in the Miocene (25-5 million years ago) of Eastern Europe, and the Pliocene (5-2 million years ago) of western North America. The red panda is taxonomically very difficult to classify. It was originally placed in the raccoon family, Procyonidae, because of similarities in dentition, skull, ringed tail, and other morphological characteristics. Other researchers have argued that it should be placed in the bear family, Ursidae, along with the giant panda, because of similarities in DNA. More recently, it has been proposed that the red panda be placed in its own family, the Ailuridae.
Description
Size: 
Head and body length: 510-635 mm
Tail length: 280-485 mm
Weight: 3-6 kg
With its stripy tail and distinctive facial markings, the red panda looks very much like a raccoon. Its thick fur is coloured reddish-brown above and black on the underside and legs. The red panda has thick white fur on the soles of the feet and a dense woolly undercoat to provide warmth. The undercoat is covered with long, coarse guard hairs. The long furry tail is marked with alternating red and buff rings. The panda’s face is round and predominantly white with reddish-brown ‘tear marks’ under the eyes. Like its relative the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), the red panda has an elongated bone in its wrist that functions as a sixth digit or thumb.

The two subspecies differ slightly in size and appearance, with Ailurus fulgens fulgens generally being smaller and lighter than A. f. styani. There is considerable variation in size and colour within both groups, leading some authorities to consider there may be additional subspecies.
Ecology
The red panda is a predominantly solitary species. Males maintain large territories that overlap with those of several females, although the two sexes rarely interact outside the mating season. Both sexes mark their territories with urine and anal secretions. The species is well adapted to its arboreal lifestyle – its long tail helps it to balance and it has retractable claws that enable it to climb with ease. The red panda’s diet consists almost exclusively of bamboo leaves, although seeds, berries, roots and the occasional small lizard or bird egg may also be eaten. Since bamboo is not very nutritious, red pandas have evolved an extremely low metabolic rate, comparable to that of a sloth. Even so, the animals must spend up to 13 hours a day searching for and eating the youngest leaves and shoots. Individuals are most active at dawn and dusk and during the night. Red pandas are primarily crepuscular animals, sleeping or resting during the day in trees or fallen logs, and foraging for food on the forest floor at dawn and dusk.

Red pandas mate on the ground in early winter. The following spring and summer females give birth to an average of two young in a hollow tree nest cavity. The young are born in a blind and helpless state, opening their eyes after 18 days. They are nest-bound for around 90 days, but generally remain close to their mothers until the onset of the next breeding season. The young grow very slowly due to the low quality of the diet. Adult size is reached at about 12 months of age and sexual maturity at around 18 months. Red pandas are thought to live for an average of eight to ten years in the wild.
Habitat
This species inhabits in temperate montane forests with a dense understorey of bamboo. Individuals are generally found at altitudes of 1,500-4,000m, where the air is cool and moist.
Distribution
Restricted to isolated mountain ranges in western China (Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet provinces) and the Himalayan Mountain chain in Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Myanmar. The Brahmaputra River at the eastern end of the Himalayas separates the two subspecies. A. f. fulgens is found to the west in Nepal, northeastern India, Bhutan and China, and A. f. styani to the east in China.
Population Estimate
Estimated global population around 10,000
Population Trend
Decreasing.
Status
Classified as Vulnerable (VU C1) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Threats
Red pandas are declining over much of their range due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Forests are being cleared for timber extraction, agricultural development and livestock grazing even within national parks and wildlife reserves. This results in the loss of nesting trees and the bamboo understorey on which the species feeds. The red panda is also hunted for its pelt which is used to make traditional hats and clothing in China. In Yunnan Province, a fur hat complete with the panda’s long, luxurious tail is still desired by newlyweds, as it is traditionally regarded as a talisman for a happy marriage.
Conservation Underway
The species is fully protected in all of the countries in which it occurs with the exception of Myanmar, and is listed on Appendix I of CITES. However, this protection is often not enforced. In China it occurs in many reserves established to protect the giant panda, although it is not known whether these support viable populations. It also occurs in several protected areas in Nepal and India. It is not known to occur in any protected areas in Bhutan or Myanmar. Research is being conducted on the status and quality of remaining red panda habitats, and the impact of human activities on the species. An international breeding programme is underway, with red pandas being bred in zoos throughout North America, Asia and Europe. The Red Panda Species Survival Programme (SSP) provides guidance on research strategies and long-term management of the species in captivity.

Much of the red panda research and conservation work over the past twenty years has been carried out by the US National Zoological Park, supported by Friends of the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Institution.
Conservation Proposed
The IUCN/SSC Mustelid, Viverrid and Procyonid Specialist Group has produced a Conservation Action Plan for this species. It recommends further research into the ecology and distribution of the red panda, so that key areas of habitat can be protected. The extent and intensity of current threats need to be quantified so that effective conservation measures can be implemented. For instance, although clear-cutting generally has a negative effect on the species’ habitat quality, in some areas it may actually enhance habitat quality by increasing the density of fruiting shrubs and stunting the growth of bamboo, providing easier access to red pandas. Wildlife corridors should be established to link fragmented areas of habitat. Captive breeding should continue, but it is important to ensure that red pandas are no longer taken from the wild to supplement zoo populations. Finally further research is required to determine the degree of genetic variation within red pandas throughout their range to ascertain the number of distinct groupings or subspecies.
Associated EDGE Community members

GWild will wear ONLY 12 outfits in 12 months for 12 threatened animals to fundraise for their conservation.

Links

SSP Coordinator
Miles Roberts
Department of Zoological Research
National Zoological Park
3000 Block of Connecticut Ave
NW Washington, DC 20008
(202) 673-4749
E-mail: robertsm@si.edu

The Red Panda Network is committed to protecting the red panda and preserving its habitat through the empowerment of local communities by adaptive community-based research, education, and sustainable development.

Zoo population

There is a red panda resident at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

References

ARKive. (Oct 2005).

Flynn, J. J., Nedbal, M. A., Dragoo, J. W. and Honeycutt, R. L. 2000. Whence the Red Panda? Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 17(2): 190-199.

Glatston, A. R. 1994. The Red Panda, Olingos, Coatis, Racoons, and their relatives. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Procyonids and Ailurids. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.

Nowak, R. M. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London.

Wang, X., Choudhury, A., Yonzon, P., Wozencraft, C. & Than Zaw 2008. Ailurus fulgens. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. www.iucnredlist.orgDownloaded on 14 November 2010.

Distribution map based on data provided by the IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.

if you can provide new information to update this species account or to correct any errors, please email us at info@edgeofexistence.org


Forum comments
  1. Sally Wren
    EDGE Team

    Dear Ximevelez and Manola,

    Thanks for your posts about the red panda's taxonomy. The EDGE list was published in January 2007, with the taxonomy based on the mammal supertree (published later in 2007) and the threat assessment based on the IUCN Red List.

    Various aspects of the taxonomy and phylogeny, and many of the Red List assessments have since been re-evaluated or updated, and this additional information means that the current list is now out of date in places. We are currently working to incorporate these into the EDGE list, to produce an updated version and hope to present this on the website soon. We expect that there will be some interesting changes to the Top 100 EDGE mammals list!

    Cheers,
    Sally

    Posted 4 years ago #
  2. ximevelez
    Member

    Hi,
    I have emailed you a couple of times regarding the inaccurate classification of the Red Panda on your database. It does not belong to the Ursidae family (thus, is not a bear) but to its own family: AILURIDAE.

    Please see the IUCN red list and Wilson&Reeder's Mammals Species of the World, http://www.bucknell.edu/MSW3/browse.asp?id=14001688

    Cheers,
    ximena.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  3. ximevelez
    Member

    Hello,
    The Red Panda does not belong to the Ursidae family but to its own AILURIDAE (IUCN Red List)

    Thank you very much,
    ximena.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  4. Anonymous
    Unregistered

    I cant find when they became endangered ,can someone tell me?

    Posted 5 years ago #
  5. Anonymous
    Unregistered

    Red pandas remaind me of a fox. It's very cute animal, and fun to look at.

    Posted 5 years ago #
  6. Anonymous
    Unregistered

    red pandas are lovely animals and they deserv to have a good life

    Posted 5 years ago #
  7. Anonymous
    Unregistered

    i really think that the red panda is a cool animal. it has some really cooooool animal pictures. i really like this animal and i would like to have one but i don't kmow if i'd be able to have one as a house pet. welll i guess thats all i have to say about the red panda. talk to you later

    Posted 5 years ago #
  8. Sally Wren
    EDGE Team

    Hello,

    The Red panda is currently listed as 'Vulnerable' by IUCN (see: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/714). On the EDGE website the species is listed as 'Endangered' because our EDGE scores were based on the 2006 IUCN Red List designations.

    We are in the process of updating our EDGE mammals list according to the most recent phylogenetic information and Red List classifications, so we'll have to wait and see how these changes affect the red panda's position on the EDGE list!

    Posted 5 years ago #
  9. Anonymous
    Unregistered

    What is the IUCN designation of this animal?!?

    Posted 5 years ago #

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