All About Red Pandas

The red panda has a kitten-like face and fluffy tail.

While most people think of the black-and-white variety when talking about pandas, this mammal shouldn’t be ignored.

What You Should Know

Red pandas live from northern Myanmar to the Yunnan Provinces of China. Some habitats in Tibet, India, and Nepal are also home to the red panda.

They prefer to live in the high-altitude temperate forests full of bamboo because this food makes up about 90% of its diet. 

Unlike the giant panda, red pandas prefer to eat the leaf tips and tender shoots. They grasp the stems with their forepaws and shear off the leaves with their mouths. When bamboo is scarce, they will feed on fruits, grubs, insects, birds or small mammals.

What Sound Do They Make?

Red pandas don’t make a lot of noise but have been heard making quacks and squeals. They sometimes grunt or hiss while the young cubs will whistle when in distress. You can listen to some red pandas with these sound clips.

Group Characteristics

The red panda prefers to remain in solitary unless it’s time to breed. In the wild, the range of each animal equals one square mile, while in captivity, they will live together.

Red pandas breed from January through March in the Northern Hemisphere, but the Southern Hemisphere sees breeding months between June to August. Gestation lasts anywhere from 93 to 156 days, as there might be a period of delayed implantation.

Females create a nest in hollow stumps, bamboo thickets, tree roots or tree holes. Litters consist of two cubs. They are born covered in fur which protects them from the cold. The offspring live with the mother for up to a year, which is when they are full grown.

How Many are There?

The IUCN lists the red panda as Endangered. Main threats to this animal include trapping. Typically, the traps are intended for deer or wild pigs, but the panda finds its way into them. They are also a target for poaching in Myanmar and China. In Bhutan, merchants sell the fur for hats and caps.

The two main predators to the red panda include the martens and snow leopards.

Pop Culture

The Firefox web browser is supposedly derived from the red panda, which is why it is called “firefox.” Another popular reference to the red panda is in the 2008 movie Kung Fu Panda. Master Shifu is the teacher who is an anthropomorphic red panda. Another anthropomorphic red panda is Retsuko from the Netflix series Aggretsuko.

Interesting Facts

When in captivity, the red pandas are active throughout the day, but most active at dawn and dusk. It’s estimated that they spend 45% of the day awake, but are more active when it is colder. If the temperature drops too low, the red panda will become dormant. Their metabolic rate lowers for the majority of the day. Then, it rises for a few hours, just long enough for them to find food.

This energy conservation mode allows the red panda to operate like a sloth. With the low nutritional value of their diet, it helps them to remain less active. They also have behaviors that help to regulate their body temperature. The red panda will curl up into a tight ball when it is cold. This keeps their energy and temperature loss to a minimum. On the other hand, they will stretch out and pant when the temperature is hot.

The red panda lives up to 23 years, but begin to exhibit signs of older age around the time they are 12 years old.