The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is currently keeping a close eye on red pandas and their habitat across India, Nepal and Bhutan to better understand and help this adorable, but declining species.
The WWF describes the red panda:
“Most people don’t know that China’s famous black and white bear has a little red cousin. The red panda is slightly larger than a domestic cat with a bear-like body and thick russet fur. The belly and limbs are black, and there are white markings on the side of the head and above its small eyes.
Red pandas are very skillful and acrobatic animals that predominantly stay in trees. They use their long, bushy tails for balance and to cover themselves in winter, presumably for warmth. Primarily an herbivore, the name panda is said to come from the Nepali word ‘ponya,’ which means bamboo or plant eating animal.”
Almost 50% of the red panda’s habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas. Because its survival depends on such a limited area, it is extremely vulnerable to any alterations in its habitat. That’s why the loss of nesting trees and bamboo, which provides their main source of food, is causing a decline in red panda populations across much of their range.
One of the ways that the WWF is trying to help red pandas is by working with yak herders and other community groups to reduce human impact on its habitat. Fines and/or jail time for people caught hurting or killing the animals have also been instituted. This punishment is meant to deter poaching- red panda fur caps and hats have been found for sale in Bhutan.
For more info about these beautiful but vulnerable animals and how you can help them, visit worldwildlife.org.