Red Pandas have a distinctive appearance and a lovable personality. Our copper-colored buddies, who have feline-like traits, are beautiful animals with a modest yet gentle nature that enjoy being alone. 

Brown White Red Panda
Brown white red panda | Image Credit – Flickr

They can move freely from nightfall until morning, as long as they avoid penalties and pursue their affairs. When they’re ready to relax, they usually lodge themselves in the trees and nap in the air. Here are 30 mind-blowing facts about a red panda that you should not miss.

Table of Contents

1. Family history

As striking as they appear, the Red Panda has an odd family tree. They are descended from two different species, which illustrates why their make-up is unusual and extraordinary. Our bushy-tailed friends are not only linked to both the panda and raccoon groups, but they also belong to their order, the Ailuridae, implying that they are not precisely Pandas while being dubbed as one.

2. One of Earth’s Living Fossils

Historical cousins of the current red panda colonized North America between 4.5 and 12 million years ago, according to fossils discovered at the Gray Fossil Site in Tennessee. The prehistoric panda, identified as the Bristol’s panda (Pristinailurus bristoli), was recently recognized in 2004 when East Tennessee State University researchers unearthed skeleton pieces and a solitary tooth at the renowned fossil deposit.

3. Identity crisis

They were first named ‘panda’ around fifty years before the black and white version.

4. Confined to the Eastern Himalayas

We can observe red pandas in high timber ranges from northern Myanmar in Burma to the western Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan. However, one can also spot them in Nepal, India, and Tibet. We can occasionally encounter them in other high ranges, but the World Wildlife Fund estimates that the Eastern Himalayas account for nearly half of their territory.

5. Spending most of the time eating and sleeping

Red Panda eating
Red panda eating | Image Credit – Flickr

Red pandas have a limited energy allowance due to the low nutritional value of their meal; therefore, they devote the majority of their time to napping and feeding. Red pandas can go inactive in extremely low temperatures. Their metabolism drops and only rises every few hours to awake and allow them to search for nourishment.

6. How much is too much?

Red pandas can only metabolize roughly 24% of the bamboo they ingest, despite being a significant component of the diet. They must consume 20 to 30 percent of their body weight in bamboo stems and leaves every day, or around 2 to 4 pounds. As per the San Diego Zoo, female red pandas consume over 20,000 bamboo shoots every day.

7. Sweet tooth creatures

When it comes to food, red pandas prefer artificial sweetness. Investigators provided a range of Carnivoran species with buckets of plain water, naturally sugary water, or artificially sweetened water in a 2009 study published in The Journal of Heredity. Red pandas selected three artificial sugars: neotame, sucralose, and aspartame, per the researchers. They are the only non-primate animal with reported tasting aspartame, a capacity previously considered to be exclusive to Old World monkeys, apes, and humans.

8. What’s a vegetarian carnivore?

Although it may appear to be an oxymoron, the carnivore label does not refer to a meat-eater. Carnivores are a biological category that comprises bears, dogs, and cats. While most of these species are carnivores, most are omnivores and vegetarians. Since they share common progenitors with other carnivores, red pandas are also categorized as carnivores.

9. Digestive System of a Carnivore

Red pandas aren’t strictly vegetarians; they eat bugs, worms, birds, and small rodents. They have a carnivore digestive system that excels in digesting protein and fats instead of the natural fibers and carbohydrates that constitute the majority of their diet. Red pandas also have remnants of the TAS1R1 umami taste receptor gene, which helps them detect flesh and other protein-rich diets.

10. Can Digest Cyanide

Red pandas can digest approximately 40 distinct types of bamboo. Like giant pandas, red pandas have adapted to counteract cyanide in their intestines when eating bamboo; bamboo shoots are high in cyanide compounds.

11. Lifespan

A sleepy red panda
A sleepy red panda | Image Credit – Kalen Kemp

The longevity of the red panda is only eight to ten years. But, in confinement or at a wildlife park, it can live up to fifteen years.

12. Nocturnal furries

The red panda is a nocturnal animal most active between twilight and daybreak. It will spend most of the day resting in trees to preserve energy, as most of its nutrition is low in calories.

13. Fur Babies

Red pandas are just as adorable as you would expect, measuring between 3 and 4 ounces at delivery. Pups are born coated in fur to shield themselves from the cold at high altitudes.

14. Red panda or bear cubs?

Red panda cubs have light brown fur and pink paws and mouthparts, making them look like little bears. The reproductive cycle of red pandas ranges from 90 to 145 days, and most mother red pandas give birth to one to four cubs.

15. Nests are not just for the birds

In the warmer seasons, cubs are delivered into a nest built of twigs and leaves after three months of development in their mother’s womb. At around three months of age, the cubs leave the nest but remain with their mother until the next birthing season begins.

16. Multi-functional face

A red panda’s facial marks aid in their survival! The “nearly luminous” color on their faces helps guide a mother’s misplaced pups in the dark.

17. Red ‘tear tracks’ have a purpose

The red panda’s eyes have scarlet tear tracks, which assist them in filtering the intense sunlight out of their vision. These tear tracks block the light on a bright day, giving them superior eyesight.

18. Unique style of climbing down a tree!

Their joints are very elastic, and the femur is connected so that the fibula can rotate around its axis. As a result, red pandas are among the few creatures on the planet capable of climbing down a tree head-first.

19. A false thumb!

They have a fake thumb (an expanded wrist bone) that has evolved to aid tree climbing and bamboo consumption.

20. No paw pads

Red Panda on Brown Wooden Surface
Red Panda on Brown Wooden Surface | Image Credit – Brett Sayles

Red pandas lack paw pads but instead possess fur coating the bottoms of their paws, which is thought to provide extra warmth from the cold and aid traction on slippery trees. To validate their territory, they have smell glands on the pads of their feet. Red pandas have sharp claws that they can retract like a cat’s.

21. Tale of the tails

Redd pandas enter a state known as torpor whenever it gets freezing. Their tails account for over half of their full size, and they coil this fuzzy tail over themselves and fall asleep quickly, decreasing metabolic needs and dropping both core temperature and breathing rates.

22. Yes, it is true! Red Pandas tweet

Red pandas have a web browser branded after them and tweet. They are definitely an animal of the digital age. Firefox is the browser where the emblem is a red panda, and they literally tweet from their mouths. Technically, twittering is the music they produce.

23. Standing up for themselves

The red panda can stand on its rear legs. Sticking up makes them look more prominent when irritated or attacked; therefore, it is essentially a defense strategy. They could also produce loud noises, use their paws to protect themselves, or exude a nasty odor from their scent receptors. Well, if you ever encounter a red panda standing still, watch your back!

24. Warning whistles of red panda

Red Panda on Tree Branch
Red Panda on Tree Branch | Image Credit – Christian Krumbholz

Whenever red pandas are angered or scared, they often communicate. They communicate using nonverbal cues such as head bouncing, tail curling rising on their back legs, and making excessive noises like the huff-quack and alert whistles.

25. The perfect Camaflauge 

You may not always instantly assume “excellent for disguise” when looking at the reddish-orange color of the red panda’s pelt, but again you would be wrong. The red panda is quite effective at concealing from enemies by blending with the limbs of fir evergreens, which are typically hidden in reddish-brown mosses. This is useful because homicide by snow leopard appears to be a very horrible way to die, right?

26. The escape artists

When Rusty the red panda escaped from the Smithsonian National Zoo in June 2013, he had only been in captivity for three weeks. How did he get away? Torrential downpours knocked a tree branch down over his enclosure’s electrified fence. And, he fled!

27. High Mortality Rate in the Wild

Red panda mothers have a declining population in the open, delivering only two babies per year. Unfortunately, pandas have a high mortality rate in their natural settings, where infections are also a problem. Research on Nepalese red pandas discovered that they are incredibly vulnerable to lethal endoparasites, with a parasite frequency of 90.80% in the population investigated.

28. Threatened and close to extinction

The red panda is endangered on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. The community is thought to have declined by half in the last 18 years, and the trend is expected to continue and maybe accelerate in the next three generations. According to the San Diego Zoo, there are approximately 10,000 adults in the wild; however, some estimates place the number at only 2,500.

29. Separated Into Two Species

Modern gene tests have discovered that the red panda is actually two different species: the Himalayan red panda and the Chinese red panda. Previously, the red panda was assumed to be one lifeform with two subspecies. When communities were split by the Yalu Zangbu River some 250 thousand years ago, experts in China discovered two distinct species.

30. International Red Panda Day

The International Red Panda Day was established to honor red pandas. Since 2010, it has been observed on the third Saturday in September to raise consciousness and sympathy for red panda conservation, imperiled by habitat degradation and hunting.

To Conclude

Another fact you certainly know about red pandas: they are charming. Even though they aren’t tamed-able and hence aren’t ideal as pets, folks continue to keep them as pets anyhow – particularly in Nepal and India – and post their beautiful antics on the web for all to see.

If you adore Red Pandas, enjoy them from afar and not by your lap!

(Last Updated on June 7, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!