Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens Latin "fire colored cat") or Lesser Panda, is a mostly herbivorous cat-sized (60 cm long) mammal. Its classification is uncertain. It was formerly classified in the raccoon family (Procyonidae), but now many experts, including Wilson and Reeder , classify it as a member of the bear family (Ursidae) or in its own family the Ailuridae. It is native to the Himalayas and southern China. Fossil evidence suggests that it once also existed in North America.
Its Western name is taken from a Himalayan language, possibly Nepalese, but its meaning is uncertain. One theory is that "panda" is an anglicisation of "poonya", which means "eater of bamboo". The Red Panda is also commonly known as the Wah because of its distinctive cry.
Like the Giant Panda, it eats large amounts of bamboo. The Red Panda, however, has a digestive system more suited to a carnivorous diet and cannot digest cellulose, so that it must eat a great deal of bamboo to survive. Its diet also includes fruit, roots, acorns, and lichen, and Red Pandas are known to supplement their diet with young birds, eggs, small rodents, and insects on occasion. Captive Red Pandas readily eat meat. Red Pandas are excellent climbers and forage largely in trees. The Red Panda does little more than eat and sleep due to its low-calorie diet.
The Red Panda has semi-retractile claws and a "false thumb", really an extension of the wrist bone. Thick fur on the soles of the feet offers protection from cold and hides scent glands.
Adults are largely solitary and mainly nocturnal. Females give birth to litters of one to four young (most often two) between mid-May and mid-July. The young, born fully-furred, blind, and helpless, are weaned at five months of age. Sexual maturity occurs at age 18–20 months.
The species is endangered, largely because of habitat loss, though there is also some illegal hunting. Red Pandas are often killed for their coats to make fur hats and clothes. Also, because of the growing population in China, their habitats are knocked down in order to build houses. Approximately 10,000 pandas die per year, and approximately 7,000 of the 10,000 die from deforestation.
There are two subspecies of Red Panda: Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani. A. f. fulgens is a little smaller and its facial fur is much lighter; its range covers Nepal, Tibet, the Indian states of Assam and Sikkim; Bhutan and China. A. f. styani has more pronounced facial markings; it is restricted to northern Myanmar and some areas of China. The red panda depicted in the photo seems to be A. f. fulgens. The Red Panda is the state animal of Sikkim.
Name in Chinese
The Chinese name of the Red Panda is 小熊貓; (pinyin: xiǎo xióng māo), meaning 'small panda'. The Chinese name of the Red Panda is based on that of the Giant Panda, unlike English where the Giant Panda has been named after the Red Panda. The Red Panda is also sometimes known as hǔo hú (火狐), which literally translates as `fire fox', a name which can refer both to the red fox or the Red Panda.
The term firefox, as used to describe the Red Panda, has been propagated by its use in the web browser Mozilla Firefox, although the browser logotype is a fox with its tail on fire as opposed to a Red Panda.
- Zoo.org factsheet
- Lesser Panda (Red Panda)
- BBC – Wildfacts
- Animal Info
- Wellington Zoo Red Panda aka. Firefox
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