In the shadow of its more popular namesake.When you hear the word ‘panda’, you’d probably think of the cuddly black and white bear of China, the Giant Panda. But did you know the original pandas are the smaller, Red Pandas?
The Red Panda is a raccoon-like animal native to China’s southwest border with the Himalayas—which also borders Nepal, India, Bhutan and Myanmar (Burma). Living in the ‘Roof of the World’, Red Pandas require colder temperatures to be comfortable (between 17 and 25°C).
Even though the Red Panda and the Giant Panda are not close relatives, they surprisingly share some characteristics.
- Both live in similar cold places (although their territories don’t overlap—the Giant Panda lives in the mountains of Central China).
- Both eat mostly bamboo (although both will supplement their diet—with other leaves, fruits, berries, birds’ eggs—even meat—whenever available).
- Both have false ‘thumbs’ (actually an overgrown wrist bone)—for the Red Panda, to aid in climbing trees; for the Giant Panda, as an aid in grasping bamboos.
- Both are recognized as “living fossils.”
Unlike the Giant Panda, (which is very difficult to breed inside zoos), the Red Panda readily breeds in captivity.
While the Red Panda can be domesticated as a pet (there doesn’t seem to be any concerted efforts to do just this as of the moment), providing it with both bamboo and the cold temperatures it needs would not be easy for ordinary homes in the US and Europe—plus getting one into these countries would be difficult because of the Red Panda’s endangered status. But, for its survival, domestication might be the most viable option.