The red panda is a living fossil. It has no close surviving relatives, and most resembles raccoons and skunks, not giant pandas. Living in temperate (neither tropical nor arctic) mountain forests from Nepal to China, they spend most of their time in trees. They are both nocturnal and crepuscular, meaning that they come out in the early morning and evening. The red panda is also called the cat-bear, lesser panda, and fire fox. The browser "Mozilla Firefox" was named after them.
Their diet is two-thirds bamboo, but they also eat acorns, flowers, berries, lichen, mushrooms, roots and grasses and occasionally insects, fish, eggs, and chicks. Like giant pandas, they have a bone that acts like a thumb, helping them hold the bamboo. However, because bamboo is low in calories, they spend most of their time eating and sleeping. They drink by dipping one paw into water and then licking it!
The red panda is threatened due to many factors. Deforestation reduces their habitat and grazing livestock can trample their bamboo. In China, they are poached for their fur, which is considered good luck by newlyweds and used in traditional ceremonies. Although the practice of capturing red pandas for zoos has ended, they are sometimes sold to private collectors and are occasionally kept as pets in Nepal and India. Even without interference in the wild, the red panda has a low birth rate and high death rate.
However, red pandas are officially protected throughout their range and hunting them is illegal. Parks protect them in every country they live in and some villages are involved in conservation, as well. Although some originally trapped wild red pandas, many zoos have developed successful captive breeding programs. If we protect them now, the red panda will flourish in the wild.