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Red Panda
Conservation status: Endangered

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ailuridae
Gray, 1843
Genus: Ailurus
Species: A. fulgens
Ailurus fulgens
F. Cuvier, 1825
The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens Latin "fire colored cat") or Lesser Panda, is a mostly herbivorous mammal, slightly larger than a domestic cat (60 cm long). Its classification is uncertain. It was formerly classified in the raccoon family ( Procyonidae), but now many experts, including Wilson and Reeder (1993), classify it as a member of the bear family ( Ursidae) or in its own family the Ailuridae. The most recent DNA research places the Red Panda in its own family, within the superfamily Mustelidae. It is not closely related to bears, but more so to the mustelid, skunk and procyonid families. It is native to the Himalayas and southern China. A handful of fossils have also been discovered 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. This name was given to it by Thomas Hardwicke, when he introduced it to Europeans in 1821.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 it must consume a large volume 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. A popularity boom in Japan for the species has occurred due to red pandas at two different zoos being able to stand bipedal (see below).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 - Contents

A Red Panda at the Munich zoo.
A Red Panda at the Munich zoo.
A Red Panda at the Darjiling Zoom zoo.
A Red Panda at the Darjiling Zoom zoo.
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 logo depicts a fox with its tail on fire rather than a Red Panda.


Rise in popularity in Japan - Contents

In May 2005, the Red Panda gained a surge of popularity in Japan when Futa (風太) a member of the species living in the Chiba Animal Park ( 千葉市動物公園) was found to be able to stand on his hind legs like a human for up to 30 seconds at a time. Not to be outdone, another zoo, the Yokohama Zoo Zoorasia ( よこはま動物園ズーラシア) in Yokohama, Kanagawa recently found another "gifted" red panda within their confines, Dale (デール) who is capable of walking a considerable distance bipedal. While both of the standing pandas have gained the species many fans in Japan, both the Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa, Hokkaido and the World Wide Fund for Nature have expressed concern that the increased commercialism of this species, such as Futa being featured in a commercial for the Japan Tobacco cigarette company, may be putting too much burden on the animals. In Britain, the profile of red pandas was raised in 2005 by the 4-day disappearance of Babu from a nature centre in Birmingham.
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