Classification and Range
The red panda, panda being the Nepalese name for "small, cat-like animal," belongs to the order Carnivora. Its classification into a specific order is not complete. Scientists are seeking to resolve the confusion through DNA analysis. Recent studies suggest that red pandas are equally related to three different groups of animals that include skunks, weasels and raccoons. The red panda is the only species in the subfamily Ailurinae.The subfamily of red pandas is divided into two subspecies: A. f. styani, which are native to northern Myanmar and south-central China, and A. f. fulgens, which is native to Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and the Indian states of Assam and Sikkim.
Remote mountainous areas of dense forest and bamboo thickets. Elevation ranges from 6,000-12,000 feet (1,828-3,658 m).
Head/Body and Tail Length
Adult head/body length: 20-26 inches (51-66 cm)
Adult tail length: 12-20 inches (30-51 cm)
The subspecies Ailurus fulgens styani weighs 12-20 pounds (5.4-9.1 kg). The subspecies Ailurus fulgens fulgens is a slightly smaller animal
About 8 years in the wild; up to 15 years in zoos.
In the wild: Red pandas consume predominately bamboo shoots and leaves, grasses, roots, fruits, lichens and acorns. They occasionally eat insects, eggs, young birds and small rodents.
At the zoo: Apple-fiber biscuit, bamboo and various fruit, grubs and berries (as encountered in this exhibit).
Red pandas sexually mature when they are 18-20 months old. Being rather shy and solitary animals, adult red pandas normally share each other’s company only during the breeding season. Breeding occurs from early January to early March and births take place from mid-May to mid-July. Females appear to be in estrus (heat) once a year and are receptive for only an 18-24 hour period. The gestation period lasts approximately 134 days. Several weeks before giving birth, females may begin to build nests from sticks and leaves in hollow trees or rock crevasses. Mothers give birth to one to four cubs (normally two).
At birth, cubs weighs 4-4.6 ounces (113-130 g), are fully furred and gray-buff in color. Newborns are blind and totally reliant on their mothers for survival. Young open their eyes after about three weeks and attain full adult coloration by 90 days. Cubs are weaned at around 5 months and stay with their mother for about a year or until the next litter is about to be born. Males take no part in rearing their young. Adult red pandas, and males in particular, appear to be territorial. Using glandular sacs in their anal region, they scent mark territorial boundaries by rubbing their sacs on various objects in the wild. Additionally, they may also mark territory by using regular defecation sites. Red pandas have a mild, non-aggressive disposition.
Coat of Fire
The red panda is named after the fiery color of its long, soft coat. The coat's red color serves as camouflage to blend with the reddish-brown moss and white lichen that occurs in fir trees of China. Coloration for the upper parts of the coat are rusty to deep chestnut while the underside is darkest in color. The coat is comprised of long, moisture-shedding guard hairs and a dense undercoat of insulating gray-brown wool. The muzzle, lips, cheeks and ear edges are white, and dark red-brown tear tracks run from the eyes to the corners of the mouth. The limbs and underbelly are glossy dark reddish brown to black. The red panda has a bushy, non-prehensile tail that makes up two thirds the length of its body. The tail is faintly marked with dark red-brown rings.
Thickly furred soles of the feet are adapted for walking on snow and ice. Excellent climbers, red pandas have pinkish-white claws that are half sheathed and semi-retractile. The red panda has an enlarged radial sesamoid bone on its forefoot wrist that is opposite its other digits. This "extra thumb" enables the red panda to grip and hold slender branches and leaves in its forepaws.
Up a Tree!
Red pandas are primarily nocturnal animals, sleeping and relaxing during the day in trees or fallen logs, and foraging for food on the forest floor at dusk and dawn. When asleep, the red panda curls up on a branch with its nose tucked under a hind limb and its tail. They have also been observed in a sleeping position much like the American raccoon, sitting on a branch with head tucked beneath its chest and between their hind feet. On particularly warm days, red pandas can be seen fully stretched with belly pressed on a limb and legs dangling.
Location at the Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo's red pandas are located near the southern pudus and cranes in the Temperate Forest. If you have trouble spotting them, look up - chances are they are curled up and resting high in a tree.
Woodland Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for red pandas. The red panda SSP helps manage captive populations in North America, and through research and education, helps preserve wild red panda populations in their changing habitat. Red pandas born at Woodland Park Zoo have been sent to other American zoos so that they may breed new generations of red panda.
How You Can Help!
The effort to save endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Please do not buy products made from wild animal parts.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org find out other ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Sources and Suggested Reading
MacClintock, Dorcas. 1988. Red Pandas: A Natural History. Charles Scribner's Sons for Young Readers, New York, NY. 104 p.