Why is the red panda endangered?



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Why is the red panda endangered?

The Zoological Society of London, on the basis of criteria of evolutionary uniqueness and population scarcity, considers Ailurus fulgens one of the 100 species of mammals at greatest risk of extinction. It has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2008 because the global population is estimated at 10,000 individuals, with a decreasing population trend.

The classification as an endangered species is due to the negative trend in the number of specimens present in nature and the decrease in natural habitats. There is no official count of the number of individuals still alive, but there is an estimate of around 10,000 individuals.

Other estimates speak of a variable number between 2,500 and 20,000. The difficulty in counting individuals also comes from the inaccessibility of places and the lack of expert personnel. The red panda lives between 2200 and 4800 meters in altitude, in areas with moderate temperatures between 10 and 35 °C with little annual variation.

It prefers mountainous areas with both coniferous and deciduous forests and undergrowth rich in bamboo. In the Chinese provinces Guizhou, Gansu, Shaanxi and Qinghai the red panda is now extinct.

Why is the red panda endangered?

The red panda lives exclusively in the temperate forests of the Himalayas and in the area between the hills of western Nepal and the Qinling mountain range in Shaanxi in China.

Its habitat includes southern Tibet, Sikkim and Assam in India, Bhutan, the northern mountains of Burma, the Hengduan Mountains of Sichuan, and the Gongshan Mountains of Yunnan in southwestern China. It may also live in southwestern Tibet and northern Arunachal Pradesh, but has not been documented.

The place with the highest density of red pandas includes an area in the Himalayas thought to have been a refuge for a variety of endemic species in the Pleistocene. The distribution area of the red panda can be considered discontinuous.

An isolated group lives in the Meghalaya Plateau in northeastern India. The red panda, being a large eater of bamboo, has strong, curved and semi-retractable claws that allow it to grip branches, leaves and fruit. Like the giant panda, it has a false thumb, an extension of the wrist bone, on its front paws.

The red panda is one of the few climbers that, when descending from a tree head first, rotates its ankles to control the descent.