Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red panda is slightly larger than the domestic cat is an arboreal mammal and is the only species of the genus Ailurus. They are characterized by the presence of reddish-brown fur, long and shaggy tail and waddling gait as the front legs are short. The chief food of the animal is bamboo but is omnivore as it also feeds on eggs, fish, birds, insects and small mammals depending upon the circumstances. They are solitary and are active from dawn to the dusk and largely sedentary during the day. They are widely distributed in the temperate forests of Himalayas, Nepal and China. Also found in northern India, Bhutan and northern Myanmar. According to an estimate the population of these animals may be from 2,500-20,000 at present. They are well protected under the laws of different countries as they are at risk because of poaching and habitat destruction. It has been classified as vulnerable according to the IUCN re list in 2009. Two subspecies are known today. It is quite adaptable to live in captivity and is very commonly noticed in the zoos. More than 800 individuals have been observed to dwell in the zoos all over the world.

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

The taxonomic classification of red panda is controversial from the time when it was discovered first. Evidences based on serology, reproduction, karyology, anatomy and behaviour shows resemblance more towards Procyonidae than Ursidae. However, the feeding habits and geographical distribution points towards the need of a separate family. Recent molecular-systematic DNA technique has confirmed that they must be classified in a separate family. Now they are a part of family Ailuridae. There are two subspecies of red panda at present. The first one is the Western Red Panda living in the west of its range like Nepal and Bhutan and the second is the Styan’s Red Panda living in the east of its range like China and Myanmar. Styan’s Red Panda is larger and darker in colour than the western fellow. The colour variation is very frequent in both the subspecies and shades of yellow and brown are very common apart from red.

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red panda is considered as a living fossil and is distantly related to Giant Panda. It is believed that they first originated during the Tertiary period about 10 million years ago in Eurasia. Fossils have been found in China and Britain. It lives at an altitude of 2,200-4,800 meters inhabiting areas of moderate temperature change. It prefers mixed deciduous and coniferous forests especially with dense old trees and understories of bamboo. The head and body of the animal is 56-63 cm long and the tail measures about 35-47 cm. males weigh about 3.7-6.2 kg and females 4.2-6 kg. it has long, soft and reddish brown fur on the undersides, blackish fur on the lower parts and light face with tear markings and robust dental-cranial features. The face also bears white markings which resemble with that of the raccoons. The rounded head has soft and upright ears, black nose and very dark eyes. The tail is long and bushy with six alternate reddish transverse ochre rings which provided balance to the body and is also a source of camouflage. The legs are black with short thick fur on the paws. The fur provides insulation when the animal has to face snow covered conditions and also conceals the scent glands present on the anus.

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red panda is specialized for feeding bamboo shoots and is blessed with strong, curved, sharp and semi-retractile claws for holding the bamboo twigs. Like the Giant Panda it also bears a false thumb which is an extension of the wrist bone. It has been reported that they are nocturnal to crepuscular, sleeping on tree branches and hollows of logs and become active in the late afternoon or the evening hours. It sleeps on the branches with legs dangling down when it is hot and tail curled over the face when it is cold. It is heat sensitive and can survive within the temperature range of 17-25°C in summers but cannot tolerate temperature above 25°C. After walking for a short distance the animal is known to clean its fur in the same manner as done by the cat, licks it paws, cleans its tail, stomach and the sides of the body. It marks its territory by the musk like secretion of the scent glands as well as by spraying urine. It searches the food in the dark by running and climbing on the trees. Front paw is used for passing food towards the mouth. Red panda is territorial and the adults are solitary except for the mating season. It is generally a quite animal but uses twittering and whistling sounds for communicating with other fellows. The predators of this animal are snow leopard, martens and humans. If the animal is frightened it climbs over the trees or uses its front paws for defence.

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

It is mainly a bamboo feeder but like the Giant Panda it is not able to digest cellulose so it has to consume large amounts of bamboo in order to survive. The diet consists of 2/3rd of bamboo but can also feed on lichens, fruits, berries, mushrooms, acorns and roots. It can also feed on small birds, fish and eggs occasionally. When kept in captivity it feeds readily on meat. It is an excellent climber and works less, eats more as it feeds on a low calorie diet. Bamboo shoots are easily digested than leaves. They show highest digestive ability in summer and autumn, intermediate in the spring and lowest in winters. This may be correlated with the nutrient variations in the bamboo according to different seasons. It processes bamboo poorly especially the cell wall and cellulose components. This may point towards the minor role of microbes in digestion. In order to survive red panda feed on high quality sections of the bamboo plant like the tender leaves and shoots. The food passes rapidly through the digestive tract in order to maximize nutrient intake.

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

Red Panda Food Chain

The adults rarely interact with each other except for the breeding purpose. Both the partners may mate with more than one partner in the breeding season. A few days before the birth of the youngs the mother collects food material like the brushwood, leaves and grass for the nest. The nest is usually located in the hollow of the tree of the crevices of the rocks. Gestation period lasts for about 112-158 days after which about 1-4 blind and deaf cubs are born weighing 110-130 grams each. After the cubs are born the mother cleans them and recognizes her cubs by their smell. In the beginning she spends 60-90% of her time with the cubs. After one week she spends most of the time outside the nests and returns after few hours for nursing and grooming the cubs. The cubs open their eyes when they are 18 days old. At the age of 90 days they achieve colouration and fur that resembles with that of the adults. And venture out of the nest. They also start feeding on solid food materials at this age. They stay with the mother until the next generation is born in the coming summer. The males rarely participate in raising the cubs. Red panada is able to reproduce at the age of 18 months and becomes fully mature at the age of 2-3 years. The average life span is 8-10 years but some may also live up to 15 years.

By Navodita Maurice
Article Source: ezinearticles.com