The Red Panda is often mistaken for a cat or even a fox because it is quite small being that it is just a little bit larger than your average house cat. The species is classified as endangered with an estimated population of just 2,500 left. The reason for the declining population has to do mostly with habitat fragmentation. In some areas the Red Panda is known as the Lesser Panda or the Shining Cat. The species is the mascot of the Darjeeling international festivals and is the state animal of Sikkim, an Indian state.
The Red Panda is native to southeastern Asia and can be found along the foothills of the Himalayas from western Nepal, Southern Tibet, Bhutan, and Northeast India. The species can also be found in the highlands of Burma, the Yunnan province of China, and the Sichuan province of China as well. The reason that the species is found in these areas is because they lime moderate temperatures with little annual fluctuation.
The Red Panda prefers forested mountains at elevations of 1,800 to 4,800 meters where deciduous and coniferous trees can be found in addition to rhododendron and bamboo. Where you find the Red Panda you will usually find the Giant Panda, as well as these two species are able to coexist. The Red Panda will nest in rock dens and even in hollow trees.
The Red Panda is known to be most active at dawn and dusk, so during the day you will not typically see them feeding, instead they will be sprawled out over a high branch of a tree resting. The favorite food of the Red Panda is bamboo and that is due in large part to the fact that they cannot digest cellulose so they have to eat a lot of bamboo to survive. The species will also eat berries, a variety of fruit, mushrooms, acorns, grass, lichens, small birds, eggs, rodents, and insects. The animals have a very low calorie diet, which is why they are not all that active. In captivity the Red Panda is also known to eat red meat, which is not seen in the wild.
Being that the Red Panda is a solitary animal you will not usually find them together unless it is time to mate, which generally takes place any time from the end of December to the middle of February. The species has a gestation period of 112 to 158 days and the female will then give birth to anywhere from one to four live cubs. The cubs are blind at birth and will not start to open their eyes for about 18 days and they will be fully open by the time they are 40 days old. The mother will care for the cubs in the nest for 12 weeks, but they will not be weaned until they are six to eight months old and will not leave their mother until the birth of the new litter of cubs the next summer. The average life span of the Red Panda is eight to ten years but they are known to live as long as 15 years.