Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Red Panda

Ailurus fulgens


Red pandas have long furry tails marked with about 12 alternating red and buff colored rings. This tail is not prehensile. They have a round head with large, pointed ears; the fur of the face is white with reddish-brown “tear marks” under the eyes. The fur on the back and body is a reddish-brown and fades into black fur on the legs. Their fur has a thick, soft under coat with long, coarse guard hairs. Eastern individuals have darker colorings. The soles of the plantigrade (flat, soles touching the ground) feet are covered in dense, white hair. The red panda has a slight “waddle” to its walk because the front legs are slightly bent inward. There is no sexual dimorphism between males and females.


Red pandas are found throughout the Himalayan Mountains (northern Burma, Nepal, Sikkim India, and western Sichuan and Yunnan China) between 2,200 and 4,800m above sea level. They prefer temperate climates in deciduous and coniferous forests where there is usually an understory of bamboo to eat and hollow trees for sleeping. They are arboreal creatures, meaning they spend most of their time in trees. They particularly like to nest and sleep in evergreen trees. There tail is used for balance when climbing. They are very sensitive to changes in temperature and live where the temperature averages 10-25 degrees Celsius and annual rainfall is 350 cm.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

This species consumes berries, blossoms, bird eggs, bamboo leaves, and small leaves of other plants. Bamboo leaves are the red panda’s main food source; they climb and use their paws to bend down the stalks to bring the leaves within reach.


Red pandas are solitary and do not interact with an exception for breeding season that occurs in early winter. Males and females mate with more than one partner during breeding season. One hundred thirty four days after mating, in June the female gives birth to a litter of 1-4 young between 4p.m and 9a.m. 6 days before giving birth, the female will carry sticks, grass, leaves to make a nest site in a hollow log or rock crevice. The young do not leave the nest for 90 days and then begin venturing out at night. The mothers and her young stay together until the following breeding season. Young red pandas reach adult size after 12 months and become sexually mature after 18 months.

Months and Times of Activity

The activities of the red panda changes throughout the year based on temperature, feeding regimes, and the presence of young. The red panda is most active at dusk, dawn and during the night.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    The red panda is the mascot of the International Tea Festival in Dar-jeeling.
•    Red panda skin may be worn by the bridegroom in local Chinese weddings and other cultural ceremonies.
•    This species was declared endangered in 1988 and is protected and listed in Appendix II of the convention on the International Trade in Threatened and Endangered Species.
•    To read legends featuring this animal go to:
•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Fuji Takes a Walk by Janell Roesener


Heath, T. and J. Platnick 2008. "Ailurus fulgens" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at