Sparing and seeking this adorable creature can win everyone’s heart. Don’t you have the willingness to know why it’s on the Endangered stage? Here in this article, you could grab the information about the reasons that led to this critical stage.  

Red Panda is the majestic creature that we love to spare time with unconditional love and cure. Over the years, unfortunately, Red Panda has been facing several threats from anthropogenic-induced interventions. It compels them to introduce themselves in the city area, and once the people seek it, they intentionally trap and hunt illegally. Because of the rise in declination of this species population, the species has undergone the Extinction category.

Introduction

Your heart melts when you get an opportunity to visualize such a creature whose physical appearance is enough to reflect its natural beauty. Red Panda, one of the most adorable animals, can be considered thoroughly. The body feature mixes with various colors, and the black eyes and nose in the white color face attract everyone. Won’t you get attracted? 

Undoubtedly, people often feel relaxed when they put this majestic creature in their lap, play, and enjoy it. Almost everyone can identify it because of the presence of the unique ruddy coat color. The shaking of the giant bushy and striped tail, separated toes, and claws, long and soft guard hairs in the body have made its appearance more alluring. 

Let us take you to the Red Panda family world. Here you can grab the knowledge concerning its lifestyle, threats, and whether they are Endangered or not.

Background

Painting of a red panda
Painting of a red panda | Image Credit – Pixabay

Several nicknames have been known as Red Panda, which entails firefox, lesser Panda, and Redcat bear. Importantly, Red Panda belongs to the only living member of the family Ailuridae. Recently, their taxonomic classification has been widely under scientific debate. 

Initially, they were categorized under the raccoon family Procyonidae in 1825 because of likely ecological and morphological traits of the head and the tail. But with an increase in the controversy and some DNA agreements, they are entailed to the bear family known as Ursidae.

The crucial habitat/distribution of the Red Panda range from northern Myanmar (Burma) to the western Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces of the country of China. Red Panda is an excellent climber that uses trees intending to escape from predators, using trees for shelter and sunbathing in the winter. 

Endangered stage

Why Red Pandas Are Endangered? | Video Credit – Facts Factory | Animals

Red Panda is listed under the category “Endangered” by The International Union for Conservation of Nature. Because its population reaches declination for at least 70 % with known cause of the population declination, they are categorized under the Endangered phase.

Besides this, the species is under Appendix I by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It indicates that the species is threatened with extinction. Only for some particular purposes can its specimens be traded. The reasons for Red Panda under Endangered state can be categorized under the following headings. 

1. Habitat loss and deforestation

Debris of wood from cleared land
Debris of wood from cleared land | Image Credit – Flickr

Habitat loss and deforestation have been elevating at a higher rate when it comes  to the name of wildlife. Red Panda is too not an exception. Red Panda is most active during dusk and dawn in the fir trees, and the branches are covered with moss clumps having reddish-brown color and white lichens. 

The Himalayan forests of the Red Panda have been destroyed at an unprecedented rate each year. Undergoing deforestation could undoubtedly eradicate the trees upon which they rely. Since 98% of the diet includes bamboo for the Red Panda, habitat loss and deforestation at an unprecedented rate can affect their habitat, thereby shrinking its area. 

Once the people encroach on the Red Panda’s Habitat for commercial logging and residential purposes, the Red Panda finds difficulty searching for the bamboo. As a result, their number gradually declines and leads to an Endangered state.

Despite the partial cutting down of the forest still, it can hamper the Red Panda’s habitat for a prolonged period. Upon fragmentation of the forest, the whole population remaining in the forest gets separated and is kept apart. It can have detrimental effects on their feeding behavior and reproduction.

During the bamboo flowering time, species invasion and forest fires have also been summed up in the Red Panda’s habitat shrinking. 

2. Hunting and poaching

Hunters
Hunters | Image Credit – Image Credit – Pixabay

Red Panda has been used illegally at maximum for the meat, pelt, and skin. The hunters hunt it illegally to trade the skin in several countries.

There is a comprehensive illegal supply of the Panda’s fur hats for sale in Bhutan. Since their fur is highly demanded in the International market, they are exploited massively. 

3. Livestock herding

Red panda as livestock
Red panda as livestock | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

The local people often bring dogs to protect their livestock from the predators in the Red Panda’s habitat. The dogs can attack the Red Panda since they are very calm. The herders collect fuelwood from the forest. The massive livestock grazing could tramper the bamboo, and as a result, before growing the bamboo to a mature stage, it gets destroyed initially. Thus, there will be a decrease in the bamboo numbers, ultimately affecting the Red Panda’s feeding habits. 

4. Dogs and diseases

When the dogs are not fully vaccinated, they may transfer their disease to Red Panda, such as canine distemper. This disease is so intense that it could be fatal to the Red Panda. It can spread seven species of gastrointestinal parasites to Red Panda. 

5. Inbreeding

The globe is running through advanced techniques. Inbreeding of the Red Panda has created the loss of genetic biodiversity. The original gene of the Red Panda has been depleted today in the name of inbreeding. It has too promoted the species population declination. 

6. Traditional belief

Red Panda's Fur
Red Panda’s Fur | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

One belief still rampant in China is that the Red Panda’s Fur symbolizes a good marriage during weddings. Thus, people search for its fur by illegally killing the species. There is a belief that it is being used as a traditional medicine on the black market. It looks troublesome to seek the species used for traditional beliefs and superstitions. 

In certain remote regions of the globe, the hats made from the Red Panda’s fur are inferred as the symbol of good luck. Despite such practices as illegal, people often keep the Panda’s fur in their working areas or the home. 

The mistaken belief of the people that body parts of the Red Panda could be a huge benefit in preparing the traditional medicine has also made this species more threatening. 

7. Accidental trapping

Trapped panda
Trapped panda | Image Credit – Pinterest

The Red Panda can always be in threat when a human residence is in its nearby natural habitat. They may reach an accidental trap when targeted to trap the other animals. Occasionally, they are trapped aimed to catch the other animals, including the wild deer, wolf, and pigs. 

When they are trapped, the chase is almost null that they will revive back to the forest or other natural surroundings. Instead, the illegal hunters could sell it on the black market worldwide. 

Red Panda, caught in the hunter’s trap, may get severely injured and could not revive back because they are smaller in size. 

8. Illegal pet trade

Red Panda hide
Red Panda hide | Image Credit – The Himalayan Times

Keeping Red Panda as an illegal pet trade is very common over several years.   Despite restrictions on keeping and using them as pets by IUCN and CITES, illegal selling of the Red Panda for the pet trade has contributed to the decline of this species population. Red Panda naturally cannot adjust to captivity and cannot deal with the stress. 

When this adorable creature is locked in captivity, it may undergo threatening and aggressive behavior. They can be the victims of changing behavior for long term and could not thrive with ease.

Compared to domesticated animals, the pet owner cannot properly train them since they require a very specialized diet, bamboo. Feeding bamboo every day and night may be a hardship since they habituated to roam freely in their natural habitat. 

9. Hardship in reproduction

The Precious Red Panda | Video Credit – Mila Productions

All the Red Panda produce 1 to 3 offspring at once. Unfortunately, only one of them thrives, reaching the adulthood stage. The mother could not feed or support more than two cubs at a time because the bamboo which they consume comprises deficient nutrients. 

They are very alert and possess a choosy nature when selecting their mate. There is no guarantee that the selective partners will mate in captivity. It can, without a doubt, create difficulty for the breeding programs further. Thus, it looks very significant to conserve this species for a prolonged period. 

10. Unadapted environment

Not every living creature has the potential to adapt to the changing environment such as climatic factors, habitat destruction, food scarcity and many more. It will be difficult for the organisms when their habitats are drastically altered or destroyed by several means. With the tremendous rise in the destruction of the wildlife habitat, they have found several ways and techniques to adapt to the altering environment. Some of them may have adapted well to roam near the city’s areas and initiate feeding the foods discarded by the people. Although their natural homes have been declining rapidly, they have begun to get inhabited by the city’s environment. 

Besides other wildlife, unfortunately, Red Panda cannot adapt to the changing environment. Their digestive system could not support their other foods besides the bamboo leaves and the shoots. 

It could, to some extent, suffer from diseases and can’t thrive well in its natural ranges. Such factors have contributed significantly to declining the Red Panda population and led to the Endangered category.

11. Pollution

Pollution
Pollution | Image Credit – Earth.org

When humans burn the coals, the emissions are directly released into the atmosphere. There is a huge release of the harmful chemicals which may be even carcinogenic in nature. As a result, they are deposited in the bamboo leaves through natural processes, which the Red Panda consumes. It directly reaches into the food chain. Impacts on the food chain indicate impacts on the food web. All the primary, secondary, and the tertiary consumers may have cascade effects in the whole natural ecosystem when Red Panda is affected by the pollution and its population goes on declining. It can affect both the prey and the predator relationship. 

Facts and Figures

The factors for endangerment include lack of awareness regarding Red Panda and its importance in an ecosystem, political instability, lack of strict laws implementation, lack of coordination between the stakeholders, lack of conservation budget, and many more.

Globally, the population of Red Pandas has declined by 50 %, sadly, almost half of the total population in 20 years. In the wild, a roughly 2500 population may have thrived. 

Considering Nepal, 70 % of the Red Panda population lies outside the protected regions. The Red Panda habitat region is fragmented into almost 400 forest patches, which is challenging even for the conservationists and the organizations that have started their responsibilities concerning the Red Panda and its long-term conservation. 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimation laments that there are less than 10,000 populations of the Red Panda all across the globe. 

The genetic study of the Red Panda in the year 2020 reveals the presence of two species populations throughout the globe, the Chinese Red Panda and the Himalayan Red Panda. Before it, only the species of Chinese Red Panda was revealed by the scientists and the wildlife biologists. 

Wrap up

The physical appearance of the Red Panda is majestic. Who desires to lose such a fascinating creature? Don’t they have the right to roam and thrive in their natural surroundings? Of course, they have. Unfortunately, the species has undergone an Endangered state. Don’t you feel pity for them? It becomes our full responsibility to let them adjust to their natural ranges. 

Did you find the article interesting? We will highly appreciate your understanding and comments. Let’s make them survive so that we can conserve them for a prolonged period, and even our future generations could seek them and learn a lesson for their preservation.

(Last Updated on April 4, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.