Red Panda: Possibly the world's cutest animals

Introduction

Red pandas (scientifically described as Ailurus fulgens) are cute, medium-sized animals, occurring in the temperate forests of the Himalayas. Their habital ranges from Nepal in the west to China in the east. Some individuals can also be found in northern India, Bhutan and the northern Myanmar.

They tend to live in altitudes starting from 1500 and up to 4800 m. They are arboreal (living primarily on trees) mammals and are the sole surviving species of the genus Ailurus.

Some other less common names used for these strange animals include, shining cat, lesser panda and red cat-bear. Despite their common name, they are not closely related to giant pandas as it was initially thought. Instead, their family (Ailuridae), along with the weasel family is part of the superfamily Musteloidea.

They are secretive and docile creatures, that spend most of their life sleeping, with their tail wrapped around their head.

Cute overload :D
Cute overload :D

Description

Their average head-to-body length ranges from 50 to 65 cm (20 to 26 in). Their long ringed tail varies from 30 to 50 cm. Most adults have a weight ranging from 3 to 6 kg. As you can see on the attached images and videos, their body is covered by a reddish-brown fur.

The tail is long and shaggy tail and is used as a blanket, protecting them from the cold temperatures of the chilly mountainous areas they typically inhabit.

They have curved and sharp semi-retractile nails, which help them to hold on narrow tree branches, leaves and fruits. They also have a false thumb, which actually is an extension of their wrist bone.

The average lifespan in the wild is about 8 years.

Red panda descending a tree
Red panda descending a tree

Diet

Red pandas primarily consume bamboo. However, they are omnivorous animals that feed on many different things, including:

  • acorns
  • birds
  • eggs
  • fish
  • grasses
  • insects
  • mushrooms
  • roots
  • smaller mammals


On an average day, a red panda's diet consists of about 2/3 bamboo and 1/3 of anything from the list above.

Behavior

They are territorial and solitary animals, mainly active from dusk to dawn. They are largely sedentary during the night. They are generally quiet except for some twittering, tweeting, and whistling communication sounds.

Red pandas spend most of their lives on trees, sleeping aloft for a large part of the day.

Red panda taking a nap
Red panda taking a nap

Reproduction

Red pandas start reaching sexual maturity at around 18 months of age. By the second year, most individuals have fully matured. As aforementioned, they are solitary animals that very rarely hang out with other individuals. The only exception to this rule occurs during the reproduction period. Both males and females mate with multiple partners during the mating period, which starts from mid-January to early March.

Birth occurs in mid-June to late July. A few days before, the soon-to-be mothers begin to build a nest, using grass, leaves, branches and other material. The nests are usually made inside hollow trees and rock crevices.

The mothers give birth to 1-4 cubs. The newborns are blind, fragile and have an average weight of about 120 g. After about 90 days, the red panda cabs - that look like miniature adults - begin to explore the world outside the nest. It is during the same time that they begin to consume solid foods. It will take them another 3-5 months to become fully weaned. The stay with their mother until the next litter is born.

Here's a video, shot at Zoo Liberec, Czech Republic, showing two red pandas mating:

Conservation Status

The species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Modern estimations indicate their overall population to be anywhere within the 16,000-20000 range. However, some pessimistic estimations give a number of about only 2.500 adult individuals. Unfortunately, their numbers have greatly declined in the past decades, with the species going extinct in 4 out of the 7 Chinese provinces that it previously inhabited.

Red Panda Video

More strange and cute animals

Did you enjoy reading about red pandas? Do you want to check out some more cute, weird and bizarre animals? If yes, here's a few links you may enjoy:


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