The Red panda is approximately the size of a large housecat, and has a cat-like face. Their rusty colored fur is thick and covers their body except for their ears (which are almost white), their cheeks, muzzle and the spots above their eyes. Their dense fur keeps them warm during winter. Reddish brown stripes run along both sides of their white muzzle, and there are dark and lights rings on their long, bushy tails. They have woolly, thick fur on the bottoms of their feet, which serves to help keep their feet warm and prevent them slipping on wet branches.
The range of red pandas extends from northern Myanmar to western Nepal. It also lives in the mountains of southwestern China (Sichuan, Xizang and Yunnan provinces) at elevations from 4,900 to 13,000 feet. Red pandas are found in temperate climates in coniferous and deciduous forests, where there is often an understory of hollow trees and bamboo.
The Red panda is nocturnal and usually solitary. They sleep during the day high up in the tree canopy, wrapping their long, bushy tail around them to keep warm. They feed in the trees but usually descend to the ground when dusk falls to foraging under cover of darkness. It is a territorial animal and marks its patch with urine, droppings, and a musky secretion that comes from its anal glands. Communication between one another is by means of short whistles and squeaks.
The Red panda belongs to a carnivorous group of mammals, but they mostly east bamboo shoots, so their diet is almost vegetarian. It will eat other foods such as grasses, acorns, and berries, as well as grubs, lizards, mice, chicks and birds' eggs.
Males and females may take more than one partner during a season, which is usually between January and March. After gestation of around 4 months, 1 - 5 cubs are born. In preparation for the birth, the female constructs a nest inside a tree hollow. After a week, a female will spend more time out of the nest, coming back every few hours to groom and nurse the young, and clean the nest. The young stay in the nest for about 90 days, and are weaned at around 6-8 months old. They first leave the nest at night. The young eat bamboo only until being old enough to digest other foods. They grow to full size in about a year. These pandas can breed from around 18 months old, and are fully sexually mature at 2-3 years.
Red panda main threats are habitat degradation and loss due to deforestation. They are also hunted and poached, and suffer from encounters with stray dogs. People, often children, sometimes disturb their habitat and try to catch an individual which sometimes causes their death, particularly if they are young.
According to Wikipedia, as of 2001, Red panda population estimates range between 16,000 and 20,000 individuals, including 3,000-7,000 individuals in China, 5,000-6,000 in India, and few hundred in Nepal. Most of them living within national parks in small protected zones. The ICUN classifies the red panda as "Endangered”, with a decreasing population trend.
Red pandas have an important role in their ecosystem, controlling the populations they prey upon. They live in South Asia's middle mountains in forests which are the lungs of this area. If these forests are kept intact, the people, plants and animals of South Asia can live a healthy life.