Animal of the Week: The Red Panda
By Sara Umbrell, Layout Editor
Since we’re coming up on finals season, this week’s Animal of the Week is something that is probably pretty familiar to a lot of people: the red panda! These little guys are known for their rusty red coat color and grow up to 17 pounds. Despite having the name of panda, red pandas are not as closely related to the black and white pandas that we all know and love. Red pandas belong to the Ailuridae family and are currently the only species of it, whereas giant pandas are part of the Ursidae family. Red pandas are actually more closely related to the Procyonidae family, which consists of raccoons, skunks and weasels.
The native habitat for the red panda is usually in higher altitudes and in bamboo forests. The typical range is from northern Myanmar to the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, as well as in proper conditions in Nepal, India and Tibet. Even though they are not very related to the giant panda, they do have some things in common. For example, both species of panda are obligate bamboo eaters, meaning they must have bamboo in their diet to get the proper nutrients, similar to how cats are obligate carnivores and must receive some sort of protein. However, they may be found foraging for insects or fruits, as well as even occasionally consuming small mammals as prey.
Unfortunately, these little guys are endangered, and their populations have declined about 40% in the past 20 years. The main reasons for their decline are habitat loss and degradation (mostly due to logging, farming and bamboo competition with livestock), human interference and poaching. Places where populations are abundant have put protections in place for red pandas, but illegal pet trade and poaching still happens. Hopefully things turn around for these little red bundles of fur and their populations go back up rather than continue to decline.