1: Discovered First!
The Red Panda, despite its less popular reputation, was actually discovered 50 years before the Giant Panda. The first known written record of the Red Panda was discovered on a scroll dating back to 13th Century China.
2: They’re About The Size of a Domesticated House Cat
While we don’t recommend that you to adopt one as a house pet any time soon (they are an at risk species, after all!), the red panda is relatively small, nimble, and an excellent climber.
In comparison to their distant relative, the aptly named Giant Panda, the red panda stands about as tall as Mr.Whiskers. All the cute, in a smaller package!
3: They’re Vegetarian Carnivores
Also known as herbivores, Red Pandas eat a diet consisting mainly of bamboo shoots, leaves, insects, fruits and eggs, depending on if they’re living in the wild or in captivity.
They are technically classified as carnivorous, relating to their evolution and carnivore ancestors. This little guy will pass on the steak and have the salad, please!
4: Like the Giant Panda, They Have a False Thumb
Among other similarities, the existence of the Red Panda’s false thumb led scientists to believe these two animals were part of the same species. The false thumb, which is actually an enlarged wrist bone, helped the Red Panda to survive off of Bamboo and handle plant-based foods with great dexterity.
Both the Red Panda and Giant Panda developed this adaptation based on their environment, displaying a fascinating example of two distantly related species evolving the same trait.
5: They Have A Sweet Tooth, And Maybe Even A Diet Coke Habit!
A study performed in 2009 concluded that the Red Panda is the first non-primate to enjoy the taste of artificial sweetener.
In the study, several species were provided with solutions that were water based and combined with artificial sweetener, sugar, or non sweetened. The species tested included meerkats, lions, ferrets, mongoose and Red Pandas.
The Red Panda was the only animal to express the ability to detect ”sweetness”, scientists relate this ability to what has been dubbed the ”’sweet gene”, a gene that lies on the T1R2 taste receptor.
Om nom nom!
6: They’re The Mascot of Mozilla Firefox!
A Red Panda, by any other name, would be just as adorable! Corny Shakespeare references aside, the Red Panda has many names in the animal kingdom and among animal lovers everywhere.
Known also as the bear cat, cat bear, lesser panda and firefox, Mozilla Firefox’s mascot is in fact, a Red Panda. At this point, somehow we don’t think Mozilla Red Panda web browser would catch on!
7: …But They Were First Classified as Raccoons
Okay, we can see the resemblance. While the Red Panda was originally designated within the raccoon classification in 1825 and later even reclassified as a member of the bear family, it is in fact the only remaining member of Aillurdae Family.
The ancestors of the Red Panda are now extinct, and are said to have resembled modern day weasels and raccoons.
8: They Are An At-Risk Species
As a tree dwelling mammal, the Red Panda faces environmental challenges such deforestation and climate change. They are also subjected to the effects of human actions and influence including poaching, hunting, and accidental trapping.
Also falling under the category of human action, is the presence of red pandas involved in illegal pet trade.
Respecting the natural lifestyle and habitat of the Red Panda is crucial to preserving their time with us. If you’d like more information on steps you can take to keep the Red Panda with us for generations to come, you can contact an organization like the Red Panda Network or the World Wildlife Fund.