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Red pandas are generally solitary and secretive creatures, most active at night. At other times, however, they usually rest up in trees, for as much as 15 hours of the day. Red pandas have very low metabolic rates, almost as low as a sloth. They are agile climbers, and even use trees to nest. Their long tails help them balance while they scale steep heights. Red pandas prefer mountainous forests, and can live at elevations up to 15,000 feet.
Red pandas spend most of their waking hours foraging for bamboo. But they do not eat just any part of the bamboo plant. These specialists will only consume the leaves and tender shoots. Like the giant pandas, red pandas have a “second thumb” that is actually a wrist bone to help grab onto bamboo.
Occasionally they also eat blossoms, bird eggs, small mammals, fruit, seeds, and berries.
Red pandas have a very short, seasonal breeding season. The female finds a tree hollow or rock crevice to make a nest, lining it with leaves and bamboo. After about 19 weeks of gestation, the mother gives birth to a litter of up to four young, covered with red fur. They look like miniature adults after only a few months. The juveniles venture out of the nest at about three months, but do not leave their mothers until one year, when they are full- grown. Red pandas reach sexual maturity at 18 months. At zoos, they live for about 10 years.
Some of My Neighbors
Takin, golden monkey, blue sheep, gibbons, civets, tapirs, rhinos, elephants, giant panda, snow leopards, golden snub-nose monkey, Asiatic black bear
Population Status & Threats
Red pandas are primarily endangered due to habitat loss caused by deforestation for timber, fuel, and agricultural use. It is estimated that fewer than 2,500 remain in the wild.
WCS Conservation Efforts
Dr. George Schaller began working for WCS in China’s Sichuan province in the early 1980s to study giant pandas. Some of that early work also included research on red pandas. Today, WCS continues to work in China, and runs education programs for schools in four provinces, including Sichuan. In Lao PDR, WCS is engaged in research, site-based conservation, and empowering local people to manage their natural resources. WCS is currently monitoring wildlife and threat indicators in the Nam Ha National Protected Area in Lao PDR to measure the success of those conservation programs. In 1993, WCS became the first international conservation non-governmental organization to start a program in Myanmar to increase the area of parks and reserves.