Wild Fact #285 – Confusing Past….Uncertain Future – Red Panda

Red Panda Facts

Photo by Brunswyk (Wikimedia)

We are going to start the week off with an animal I thought I had already written about. I mean, I was 110% sure that we had already taken a trip to the Himalayas to learn about the Red Panda. It wasn’t until our faithful reader, Jamie, brought this oversight to my attention. Thank you, Jamie. We were thiiiis close to never learning about the incredible Red Panda. So what do you want to learn first? How about we start by figuring out what type of animal this “Panda” really is?

What is the Red Panda?

Determining the origins of the Red Panda is not as easy as it sounds….and it doesn’t sound easy! What I can tell you for sure is that they are not a close relative of the true Panda Bear, or any bear for that matter. It kind of has the appearance of a cat so maybe they belong with the feline family? Nope, this theory was explored but didn’t hold up. The closest hypothesis was that the Red Panda was related to the Raccoon family. By looking at the two animals, you can kind of see the connection, can’t you? This would make sense since it is believed that the Red Panda is indeed a member of the musteloid family (includes raccoons, skunks and badgers), however, they have such a long history of independence from their relatives that these cuddly little animals get their own classification, Ailuridae. And I thought my family tree was confusing!

Red Panda

Photo by Jar0d (Wikimedia)

A Gloomy Fate

The Red Panda does share some similarities with the larger, black and white variety of Panda. For instance, they both enjoy the rainy, high altitude forest habitat, however, the Red Panda has a much larger distribution. Similarly, while both “Panda’s” enjoy feasting on bamboo trees, the smaller, Red Panda, has no issues feeding on other food such as fruits, nuts, roots and even eggs. You would think that with this broader diet and wider distribution range, these animals would be doing just fine from a conservation point of view. Unfortunately, this is not the case as deforestation has pushed our beloved Red Panda to the brink of extinction. That’s right, this “Panda” is also classified as Endangered! I guess we won’t be happy until all of the cutest animals on this planet are wiped out.

If you would like to get involved with the conservation efforts for the Red Panda, I suggest looking into the Red Panda Network. This group is dedicated to preserving the habitat and ultimately the Red Panda species.

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