Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Red Panda

Ailurus fulgens

The red panda is a small mountain mammal that shares a name but is not related to the giant panda. This fluffy red-coated animal resembles a cross between a bear and a raccoon, but is neither.

Range & Habitat

Temperate forests of the Himalayas, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China. Red pandas prefer altitudes between 5,000 and 15,000 feet and spend most of their time in trees.

Conservation Status: Endangered

Endangered due to habitat loss and poaching.


In the Wild -- Bamboo, fruit, grasses, roots, acorns, insects, eggs, young birds, small rodents.

At the Zoo: Red panda biscuits, grapes, coreless apples, mixed fruit and bamboo (grown at the zoo in season; purchased from other sources in winter).

Life Span

In the Wild – 8-12 years; In Human Care - up to 14 years.

Fun Facts about the Red Panda

  • Red panda were thought to be distantly related to both giant pandas and raccoons, but they have no close evolutionary relatives; they are a unique species.
  • Like giant pandas, red pandas live in the forests of central and eastern Asia and eat primarily bamboo shoots and leaves. The name “panda” comes from a Nepali word meaning “bamboo-eater.”
  • Red pandas are adapted to their cold native climate. They have fur on the pads of their feet and use their long, fluffy tails as a wraparound blanket to protect them from chilly mountain temperatures.
  • The red panda’s front paws have a unique adaptation, a “false thumb” that enables it to climb and grasp bamboo leaves and poles. This “thumb” is actually an enlarged wrist bone. This adaptation also enables red pandas to hold a paintbrush and other enrichment items.


Red panda. (n.d.). Enchanted Learning.  Red pandas - where do they live?. (2002).

Retrieved from SREL DNA Lab.  Science and nature: animals. (n.d.).

Retrieved from BBC Wildfacts.

Updated October 30, 2020