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ANIMAL
OF THE WEEK
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Red panda

Scientific name: Ailurus fulgens


CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY: Procyonidae
 

FEEDING TYPE: Carnivore
STATISTICS: Weight: 7-13 lbs; Body length: 20-24 in; Tail length: 11-19 in
 

DESCRIPTION:
The red panda has a long soft coat and a very bushy tail. Its coloring ranges from rusty to deep chestnut on the upper parts but becomes darkest along the middle of its back. The coloring is dark reddish brown to almost black on the back of the ears, the limbs and the underparts. Its tail has faded ring markings and is about two-thirds as long as the body. There are small dark patches around the eyes, while the muzzle, lips, cheeks and edges of the ears are white. The red panda’s tail is non-prehensile, which means that it is not used to hang on tree branches. Its head is round with large, pointed ears. The feet have hairy soles, and claws that are semiretractible.

RANGE:
East Myanmar to western Nepal and north into the Sichuan Province and south into Bhutan

HABITAT:
Red pandas inhabit mountain forests and bamboo thickets at elevations of5,900 to 13,100 feet, and prefer colder temperatures.

ADAPTATIONS:
Red pandas have an extended wrist bone similar to the giant panda, called an opposable "thumb," that is used to grip bamboo. The red panda is nocturnal to crepuscular, which means that it sleeps during the day, typically in a tree, and is more active from sunset to sunrise.

REPRODUCTION/GROWTH:
Females typically have only one estrus cycle each year, and are receptive for just 18 to 24 hours. Mating takes place from mid-January to early March, with young born between mid-June and late July. Gestation lasts from 90 to 145 days. Females may build a nest of sticks and leaves several weeks before giving birth.

Litters range from one to four young, but two young per litter is most common. Cubs attain full adult coloration in 90 days, and leave the adults at six to seven months of age to join small groups of other young red pandas. Both males and females reach sexual maturity at about 18 months. It is thought that red pandas have delayed implantation (an egg is fertilized by sperm but does not implant into the uterine wall until up to a year later; no embryonic development takes place during this time) in the cooler regions of its range but not in the warmer regions.

Males are usually content staying with the female and young. Females will tolerate the males staying close but will become aggressive to other females that wander through their territory.

PREY/PREDATOR:
Prey to man and larger mammals
Predator to small rodents, young birds, and insects

STATUS:
Listed as Vulnerable with IUCN due to deforestation because of logging and agriculture. It is listed on Appendix I of CITES.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • The taxonomy with this animal has given scientists many headaches. It has been put in both the raccoon family and the bear family but now it is in its own family, Ailuridae.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. CITES. January 2009
  2. IUCN Redlist.  January, 2009
  3. National Geographic. Red Panda. December 2008
  4. Nowak, Ronald M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. 5th ed. Vol. 2. John Hopkins University Press. 1991 pg 1336-1340.


Published: February 2009

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