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Red Panda

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Issue: 67 Section: Baby Animals Topics: baby animal

March 21, 2010

Red Panda

The real life firefox

by Cameron Fenton

Mother and baby Red Pandas [cc 2.0]

Living among the trees of temperate Himalayan forests from Nepal to western China, Red Pandas (Ailurus fulgens) spend most of their adult lives alone but live their first year under the protection of their watchful mothers.

These small mammals are primarily nocturnal, but have also been described as crepuscular—most active at dawn and dusk. Daytime hours are spent sleeping, lazing among high branches in the heat and covering themselves with their bushy tails in cooler weather. Their tails, with six yellowish rings, also serve as effective camouflage in the trees.

Like their distant relative the Great Panda, Red Pandas lack the enzymes necessary to digest cellulose and primarily subsist on a diet of bamboo, although they have also been known to consume small animals, eggs, fruit and other plant materials.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List—considered one of the most reliable systems for determining the extinction risk of wildlife populations—the Red Panda is categorized as a vulnerable species.

Not a major prey animal, population threats are primarily man-made. Deforestation due to industrial and agricultural expansion is one of the largest, fragmenting habitats and destroying food sources. Red Pandas are also hunted for their fur—especially their ringed tails, thought to be a good luck charm—used for making hats, and in local ceremonies across their endemic habitat.

More of a curse than a blessing, Red Pandas adapt extremely well to captivity and can be found in zoos around the globe, with over 150 in North America alone. This created a strong live animal trade for both public and private zoological collection. Today, thanks to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), live trade is now illegal. Unfortunately, with little enforcement locally or internationally and a sizable private market still in existence, poaching remains a widespread problem.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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