Red pandas are an anomaly among Asian animals: they have long, fluffy striped tails like a raccoon and faces that resemble a giant panda, but they clean themselves like a cat. Their species name in Latin is "Ailurus fulgent" which translates as "shining cat".
Red pandas are found from India to China and south to Burma. In China, they live mainly in the southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan, as well as Tibet. The red panda has been found as far east as Shaanxi Province. Though not native to North America, fossil remains have even been found in Tennessee.
Red pandas thrive in moderate climates and like woodsy, mountainous locations where temperatures rarely go above 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). Red pandas prefer altitudes between 7,200 and 15,700 feet (2,200 and 4,800 meters). Like their kin, the giant panda, red pandas eat a lot of bamboo because their digestive systems cannot absorb the cellulose that is found in many foods. Red pandas have also been known to eat small mammals, grubs, eggs, tender grasses, flowers and insects.
An adult red panda can grow up to 25 inches (63 centimeters) long in the body, with his tail adding up to another 19 inches to his body length. Males weigh up to 14 pounds (6.2 kilograms) while females top out at about 13 pounds. Red pandas live an average of eight to 10 years.
Red pandas are nocturnal animals, spending their days sleeping in trees and foraging for food at night. After waking up, they clean their reddish-brown fur just like a cat, licking their paws and rubbing parts of their body. After his morning bath, a male marks his territory.
Red pandas are not as abundant as they used to be. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has red-listed them as being vulnerable to extinction as the number of red pandas in the wild is ever-decreasing. The IUCN estimates there are only about 10,000 red pandas left in the wild, but because red pandas are only active at night, it is difficult to get a firm count.
A major reason for the decreasing red panda population is loss of habitat due to people moving into their areas to live. The ever-growing human population means a decrease in living space for the red pandas. Poaching and hunting also threaten the animals in China as well as Myanmar.
Most zoos in China have red pandas, making it easy for visitors to see them.