The Red Panda

Red Pandas share part of their range with giant pandas, but they are only distantly related

The red panda is a shy, gentle animal, well adapted to living in the forests of the Eastern Himalayas and its habitat stretches across Nepal into Burma and onward to central China. Despite its name, it is only distantly related to its black and white namesake and it has been classified as a member of the Procyonidae family which also includes racoons. Today, it is classified in the Ailuridae family. Red pandas are brilliant climbers, using their long, bushy tails for balance. They have semi-retractable claws that enable them to move from branch to branch and they can rotate their ankles to swiftly go down tree trunks head first. Feeding mainly on leaves and bamboo, they use their extended wrist bone to get a better grip, just like a giant panda. Generally, outside of the mating season, they lead a solitary life. The males mark their territory with urine and a musky scent, which is produced from glands near their anus. They also sleep in isolation, usually high in the trees, with their tails wrapped around them for some added warmth.

How a red panda protects itself

Getting up high

When it is confronted with danger, a red panda’s instinct is to fl ee and the best way to do this is to climb a tree. It grips the branches with its sharp claws as it makes it way up high.

Standing up

If there is no high ground in sight, the red panda will quite literally stand its ground, hoisting itself up on its back legs to appear tall and menacing.

Issue warning

It will issue a vocal warning, but if this doesn’t work, red pandas will flash their 36 to 38 sharp teeth. As a last resort, they will use their strong jaw muscles to tear into a victim.

This article was originally published in World of Animals issue 21, written by David Crookes 

For more science and technology articles, pick up the latest copy of How It Works from all good retailers or from our website now. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!