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The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a carnivoran native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List because the wild population is estimated at fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and continues to decline due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression. Despite its name, it is not closely related to the giant panda.

Biology[]

The red panda has long, soft, reddish-brown fur on the upper parts, blackish fur on the lower parts, and a light face with tear markings and white badges similar to those of a raccoon, but each individual can have distinctive markings. Its skull is roundish with medium-sized upright ears, its nose is black, and its eyes are blackish. Its teeth are robust. Its long, bushy tail with six alternating transverse ochre rings provide balance and excellent camouflage in a habitat with moss- and lichen-covered trees. The legs are black and short with thick fur on the soles of the paws. This fur serves as thermal insulation on snow-covered or icy surfaces and conceals scent glands, which are also present on the anus.

The head and body length of a red panda measures 50 to 64 cm (20 to 25 in), and its tail is 28 to 59 cm (11 to 23 in) long. Males weigh 3.7 to 6.2 kg (8.2 to 13.7 lb) and females 3 to 6.0 kg (6.6 to 13.2 lb).

The red panda is specialized as a bamboo feeder with strong, curved and sharp semi-retractile claws standing inward for grasping narrow tree branches, leaves, and fruit. Like the giant panda, it has a "false thumb", which is an extension of the wrist bone. When descending a tree head-first, the red panda rotates its ankle to control its descent, one of the few climbing species to do so.

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