The read panda is a small, arboreal mammal. Though it shares a name with the black-and-white Giant Panda, they are not actually closely related. The red panda is much smaller, and usually grow to about the size of a common domestic cat. It has reddish-brown fur, a remarkably long and thick tail, and toddling gait with short front legs. Its tail helps to not only provide balance to its body but also serves as a natural camouflage. It also has an extended wrist bone that helps with its grip. The head and body length of a red panda is usually from 20 to 23 inches, and its tail alone is 11 to 23 inches. Males, on average, grow to weigh between 8.2 and 13.7 pounds, which is slightly more than females, which weigh from 6.6 to 13.2 pounds.
Although red pandas exhibit a particular love for bamboo, they are in fact omnivorous. Unlike the Giant Panda, they eat many other foods besides bamboo, including fruits, acorns, roots, mushrooms, and eggs. They may also eat small mammals and birds. They search for food running along the ground or through the trees. Because they cannot digest cellulose, they must consume a large volume of bamboo, especially shoots and fresh leaves, in order to survive. Another curious fact about their diet is that they are the only nonprimates who can taste artificial sweeteners.
Habitat and Range
The red panda shares the giant panda's rainy, high-altitude forest habitat, though it has a wider range. They prefer temperate forests around the Himalayas. They can be found in the mountains of Nepal, northern Myanmar, southern Tibet, and in central China as well. Red pandas' natural habitats have been deteriorated because of deforestation, urbanization, and other excessive human activities. As more and more forests are destroyed by logging and irresponsible agricultural practices, their numbers suffer continuous decline today. For such reasons, they are classified as "Endangered" by the IUCN Red List 3.1. As a result, they are protected by national laws in countries within their ranges.
Red pandas are territorial, and they mark their territories with urine and a weak musk-smelling secretion from their anal glands. They are generally shy and solitary, except for when they are mating. Due to their low calorie diets, they are mostly inactive, and spend a lot of their time sleeping. Nonetheless, they are excellent climbers and often live and sleep in trees. They are mainly active from dusk to dawn, while largely sedentary during the day. In fact, they will often do almost nothing other than sleeping and eating. When facing danger, they often try to flee by climbing trees.
Both sexes of red pandas only interact with each other during mating. Males and females alike tend to mate with more than one partner during each mating season, which is from mid-January to early March. After a gestation period of 112 to 158 days, the female gives birth in a nest in mid-June to late July. A litter is usually between one and four young in size. Babies are born blind and deaf, weighing 3.9 to 4.6 ounces each. After birth, the mother cleans her babies and spends most of her time with them, while there is rarely any help from the males. Babies will open their eyes after about 18 days, and will stay in their mothers' nests until the next litter is born.
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