The red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), unlike the black and white giant panda bears are pandas that grow to the size of a typical house cat and look like a cross between a cat, raccoon, and a panda. Including the tail length, red pandas grow to about 42 inches in length and weigh about 7-14 pounds. These pandas are found dwelling in the mountains of Nepal, India, China, Bhutan, and Myanmar.
Red pandas are excellent climbers and also use a thumb-like bony protrusion to climb trees. These animals are reddish brown in color with black and white markings. Their bellies and legs are black in color, while their tail is thick, bushy, and ringed. Red pandas are enveloped in a soft covering of fur, which extends even to the soles of their feet, thereby enabling them to keep warm at high altitude habitats.
The Original Panda
There are two species of pandas: giant panda bear and red panda. Although most of us believe that the giant panda is the original panda, it's this red panda that is the original panda. It was first described in 1821, which was 48 years before the giant panda was found.
Bushy, Ringed Tail
Red pandas use their long, bushy, ringed tails to balance themselves on trees. They also use their tails to cover themselves during the cold winter months. Thus, this tail acts like a cozy blanket for the pandas in cold weather.
The panda's red and white markings on the fur blend in perfectly with the white lichens and red mosses growing on trees where they dwell. This helps them hide from their predators like the snow leopards and martens.
In captivity, red pandas live to a period of about 14 years. However, in the wild, they manage to survive for only 7-8 years.
The name 'Panda' stands for the Nepalese word for red panda - "Nigalya poonya", meaning 'eater of bamboo'. Red pandas are very fond of munching on bamboo shoots. Using their thumb-like appendage, these pandas grab onto the bamboo stems and devour about 200,000 bamboo leaves in a single day. Their strong teeth and jaws enable them to munch comfortably on the tough leaves and stalks of bamboo shoots. However, unlike the giant panda that relishes only on bamboo leaves, these red pandas are also quite fond of blossoms, bird eggs, berries, fruits, and various other plants with small leaves.
Breeding and Baby Pandas
Adult pandas are solitary animals and come together only during the breeding season, which is in late fall during the winter. After a gestation period of 134 days, one to four young pandas are born. The newborn pandas are covered in thick, gray fur with closed ears and eyes and weighing only 4-5 ounces. After nesting for 90 days, the little pandas stick around their mothers until the next breeding season, by when they would have attained adult size.
Endangered Red Panda
The sad part is that there are only about 2500 red pandas present on planet Earth. Man has ventured and destroyed their habitat, thereby leading to the depletion of their numbers. Moreover, being hunted down for their fur to make hats, etc., has caused panda numbers to plummet terribly.
These furry animals with their squeaks, chattering, and chipmunk-like sounds are simply adorable. In fact, sometimes these pandas also give off warning whistles. However, looking at the present condition and the speed at which red panda habitat is being devoured for selfish gain, it will not be long before these lovely, furry friends are forced to extinction.