by Piter Kehoma Boll
One of the cutest animals on the world, or perhaps the cutest in fact, the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is today’s Friday Fellow.
The red panda is endemic to temperate forests of the Himalayas in Nepal, China, India, Bhutan and Myanmar. It has, therefore, a considerably small range and prefers areas with a higher bamboo cover.
Despite its cuteness, the red panda’s wild population is declining, with less than 10 thousand individuals remaining, although a more accurate measurement is hard to achieve because local people tend to confuse other small carnivores with the red panda, which may lead to an overestimation of the population size. It is listed as an endangered species in the IUCN’s Red List and the main threats to its survival are habitat loss and fragmentation, inbreeding depression and poaching.
As the giant panda’s, the red panda’s main food is bamboo, but it also eats fruits, eggs and small animals, such as insects and small mammals.
The taxonomic classification of the red panda was a headache for a long time. It has been placed among the bears (Ursidae) and the raccoons (Procyonidae), but molecular studies indicated that it belongs to its own family, Ailuridae, which is closely related to Procyonidae, Mustelidae (weasels) and Mephitidae (skunks).
Being so cute and only slightly larger than an average domestic cat, as well as easily adaptable to live in captivity, it’s strange that the red panda has not become popular as a pet.
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Pradhan, S.; Saha, G. K.; Khan, J. A. 2001. Ecology of the red panda Ailurus fulgens in the Singhalila National Park, Darjeeling, India. Biological Conservation, 98(1): 11-18.
Wikipedia. Red Panda. Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_panda>. Access on January 28, 2016.
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