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The Red Panda
Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens - or shining cat) are members of their own unique family, the Ailuridae. They live in cool bamboo forests in parts of China at altitudes generally between 5,000 to 15,700 feet. They are distantly related to the larger black-and-white panda and even share part of their range. Below are more interesting and unusual facts about the red panda.
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These beautiful pandas are slightly larger than a house cat and resemble a raccoon. Their body size is about 20-26 inches long and their bushy tail is about 12-20 inches long. They weigh roughly 12-20 pounds and have reddish-brown fur that blends in with the red moss and white lichens on the trees that they live in.
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The red panda primarily eats bamboo but unlike the giant black-and-white panda, it will eat many other foods, including fruit, acorns, mushrooms, eggs, baby birds, small rodents, fish, and insects. Red pandas, like the giant black-and-white pandas, have an extended wrist bone (bony projection similar to a thumb) that helps them grip bamboo stalks. They also have a strong jaw and broad teeth that help them chew the tough stalks and leaves.
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Red pandas are sexually mature at about 18 months. They mate during the winter months and the average gestation period lasts about 130 days. Females give birth usually in the month of June. The litter size is normally 2 but can range from 1 to 5. The mother cares for the young for about 12 months or until the next litter is born (fathers have no or little interest).
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Primarily due to habitat loss, the red panda is an endangered species. Fewer than 2,500 adults exist.
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The following are more interesting and unusual facts about the red panda:
• They use their bushy tails to balance themselves when they are in trees and to cover themselves during chilly weather.
• When climbing down a tree headfirst, red pandas can rotate their ankles to control its descent.
• Females can eat about 200,000 bamboo leaves a day.
• The red panda lives about 8 years in the wild and about 17 years in captivity.
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National Geographic: Red Panda - http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/red-panda/
Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Red Pandas - http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/AsiaTrail/RedPanda/factsheet.cfm
Animal info: Red Panda - http://www.animalinfo.org/species/carnivor/ailufulg.htm
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