The primary reason that red pandas are endangered is the destruction of their native habitat. Red pandas require bamboo for food and forests for sleeping and hiding places. Unfortunately, many of the forests in the eastern Himalayan Mountains, where the red panda lives, are being cut down and cleared for agriculture and development. Red pandas are also poached by humans, contributing to their decline.
While hunting red pandas is illegal, they are sometimes captured in traps set for other animals. Often, the trappers choose to kill the trapped animals and sell their hides at local markets. Hats and pelts from red pandas have been found in markets throughout South Asia.
In addition to bamboo, red pandas will eat blossoms, fruit, leaves, eggs and berries. Red pandas reach about 14 pounds in weight and 42 inches in length. These arboreal creatures use their long, bushy tails to help maintain their balance when climbing in trees. Additionally, they use their tails to cover their bodies and keep warm in their chilly habitats.
Not all scientists agree about the red panda’s scientific classification. Some feel that it is closely related to the giant panda, while others think that the physical resemblances are a byproduct of convergent evolution. Both species share a thumb-like growth on their front limbs that helps them to grip bamboo. Red pandas and giant pandas inhabit some of the same habitats in some locations.