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This sweet and gentle creature is much loved by zoo visitors.
Red Pandas are classed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’), with numbers in the wild decreasing. There may as few as 10,000 animals remaining in the wild. Threats include hunting (although this is illegal in all countries), poaching and loss of habitat as humans move into Red Pandas’ traditional environments.
Conservation efforts around the world include designating protected areas and captive breeding programs. Red Pandas adapt well to living in zoos and there has been success with breeding Red Pandas in zoos. Visiting the Red Pandas at Melbourne Zoo is an opportunity not only to meet these animals, but also to learn about the threats to many species, what the international community is doing to try to conserve this species, and how Zoos Victoria is contributing to the fight.
Nepalese Red Pandas are found in dense forests and bamboo thickets of remote mountain areas of Nepal, China, India, Bhutan and Burma, at elevations of 1970–3660 metres. While classified as a carnivore, it is one that has adapted to a diet almost exclusively of bamboo.
Adults are 50–65 cm in length, with a tail of 30–50 cm. The Red Panda is named after the reddish colour of its long, soft fur, which camouflages the animal against the red lichen often found on trees in its habitat.
The Red Panda's fur is has a thick under layer that insulates the body against the cold, and an upper layer of long hairs that repel moisture. The muzzle, lips, cheeks and ear edges are white, and there are dark red-brown ‘tear tracks' from the eyes to the corners of the mouth.
Two thirds of the Red Panda's length is its tail, bushy and marked with reddish rings. The Red Panda's feet are furred, for walking on snow.