Endearing, but endangered
The red panda is one of the cutest animals in the world. Its fluffy rust-colored coat, sweet smile, and tiny, attentive eyes make it difficult for us to imagine a more adorable animal. Unfortunately, the red panda is an endangered species, and there are only a few of these little guys left in the wild. In honor of upcoming Red Panda Day on September 21st, learn more facts about the red panda, and what humans can do to help them.
Where do the remaining red pandas live?
Red pandas live in the "dense forests of the mid-hills of the Himalaya," according to the journal of Global Ecology and Conservation. This means that red pandas like to live predominantly in Nepal, where they make their homes in high-altitude forests with lots of bamboo plants to crunch on. They also live in northern Myanmar, southern Tibet, and central China. Red pandas like to spend their time in trees, where they can sunbathe and stay safe from predators, like birds of prey and sneaky snow leopards. Like its relative, the giant panda, red pandas rely on bamboo as its dietary staple. These panda facts will make you love them even more.
Why are red pandas endangered?
As is the case with many other animals, the primary existential threat to red pandas is (drumroll please...) human behavior! And we're not shocked. Humans and human-caused environmental degradation are a threat to "99 percent of currently threatened species," according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Human behaviors that affect red pandas include poaching, habitat destruction, and trafficking. According to a report by the NGO wildlife organization, Traffic, red panda fur is illegally trafficked and used to create clothing and hats. However, there's some good news: while conducting interviews in Southwestern China about wildlife trade, this organization discovered that the younger generations no longer like to wear animal fur products. In addition to outside threats, red pandas are also threatened by their infrequent windows of fertility, and low rate of reproduction.
What are nations doing to protect the red panda?
Smithsonian reports that red pandas are "legally protected in India, Bhutan, China, Nepal, and Myanmar." However, a report by the National Trust for Nature Conservation, hosted by the Government of Nepal, points to "poor conservation awareness and weak law enforcement" to be a contributing factor in the devastating population loss of red pandas. Though the Nepalese government has listed red pandas as an endangered species, "little research work has been conducted due to lack of funding." Despite this, the Government of Nepal and its cooperators aims to increase cooperation with conservation agencies, diversify the income of the population so they aren't tempted to hunt red pandas, and control grazing zones for local livestock.
Exactly how many red pandas are left?
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are less than 10,000 red pandas left in the world. To put that number into perspective, keep in mind that red pandas are only two-foot long. If we could put all of Earth's red pandas into one place and line them up back-to-back, they would fit comfortably onto a (57,600 square ft.) football field. In fact, the entire red panda population would only reach midfield. Ten thousand may seem like a large number, but not when it comes to the population of a species. There are approximately 753,000 times more human beings than red pandas on Earth, with the human population predicted to reach 8.5 billion people by 2030. Here are other animals that could disappear in your lifetime.
How can I help?
If you want to personally contribute to the effort to save red pandas, you can donate to anti-poaching efforts like The Red Panda Network, adopt a red panda from the World Wildlife Fund, or donate to organizations that are fighting deforestation. Efforts like these have worked to bring back these animals from the brink of extinction.