Interesting Facts About the Red Panda

Whether it’s one of your absolute favorite animals or you’ve never even heard of them, red pandas are adored by people all over the world thanks to their endearing face, soft, vibrant red-colored coat, bushy ringed tail and compact size.

Red Panda Delaware Zoological Society

But what exactly is a red panda? Is it a panda, as its name suggests? Does its ringed tail mean they’re a cousin of the raccoon? Or is it possible they represent an entirely different family of animals? Here are some general details about the ever-popular red panda, as well as some fun facts you may not have known!

General Information

  • Scientific name: Ailurus fulgens and Ailurus refulgens
  • Class: Mammal
  • Biome: Temperate, isolated mountain forests in China, Nepal, India, Myanmar (Burma) and Bhutan
    • Ailurus fulgens is found in the western part of this range, while Ailurus refulgens is found in the eastern part
  • Diet: Omnivore (consumes primarily bamboo and other plants but occasionally eats insects, bird eggs, mice, etc. as well)
  • Pelage: Ailurus fulgens have a much lighter pelage (fur) on their face than Ailurus refulgens
  • Body temperature: Endotherm (warm-blooded)
  • Biorhythm: Nocturnal
  • Birth: Viviparous (gives birth to live young)
  • Social interaction: Solitary
  • Habitat: Arboreal (tree dwellers)
  • Average lifespan: 8 to 10 years in the wild and up to 15 in captivity


Fun Facts About the Red Panda

  • They’re only slightly larger than a domestic cat. With a body length of 20 to 26 inches and weight of 12 to 20 pounds, the red panda is extremely close in size to the average domestic house cat, with the only major difference in size being its 12 to 20-inch-long bushy ringed tail. It’s important not to mistake their small size and charming appearance for an animal that would make an acceptable pet. Red pandas are wild animals that should not, under any circumstances, be viewed as domesticable They belong in the wild, and our job as human beings is simply to appreciate them and help preserve their natural, wild habitats; not to invite them into our homes.
  • Taxonomists have had a lot of trouble classifying them. For years’ taxonomists classified red pandas as a relative of the giant panda as well as the raccoon, due primarily to its iconic ringed tail. However, more recent DNA studies have found that the red panda is neither a relative of the panda nor the raccoon, but represents its own unique family scientists have termed Ailuridae. The red panda is currently the only living species within this family; all other relatives are extinct.
  • They have a false thumb. Like giant pandas, red pandas have what appear to be false thumbs, but are actually just extended wrist bones. While this trait is mainly seen as an evolutionary adaptation to help them grasp and eat tough bamboo shoots, a 2006 study suggests that unlike the giant panda, the red panda’s false thumb first evolved to help them climb trees with tremendous skill and ease.
  • The Brandywine Zoo is home to two red pandas. All of us at the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Delaware are proud to be home to two red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), Merry and Gansu, who were born at the Detroit Zoo and transferred to our care. Click here to view pictures of Merry and Gansu!

Conservation Concerns

Like countless other magnificent species on Earth, the red panda is considered an endangered species whose current population trend is notably decreasing. In fact, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates there are less than 10,000 red pandas left in the wild today. Their decline in population and at-risk status are primarily attributed to the fact that these beautiful creatures are the victims of deforestation and rapidly shrinking habitats due to human behaviors such as logging, agriculture and hunting.

These issues have resulted in the red panda being added as one of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) cooperatively managed Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Programs. The ultimate goal of these programs, of which there are nearly 500, is to conserve populations of at-risk species such as this in the wild.

Visit the Red Pandas and All Your Other Animal Friends at the Brandywine Zoo!

To start planning your family’s visit or to learn about the many ways you can get involved and support the Brandywine Zoo, contact us online today!

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