While China’s most known and beloved animal mascot may be the Giant Panda, known for its black and white fur, spot on the endangered species list, cuteness and reluctance to mate (sometimes needing panda porn to get in the mood), there is another lesser-known panda in China that deserves to get some of the spotlight. The red panda, also known as the firefox, lesser panda, or its latin name Ailurus fulgens/Ailurus styani, is hardly as popular as its counterpart, despite its appearance in the widely popular Kung Fu Panda movies as Master Shifu, kung-fu extraordinaire.
While Giant pandas and red pandas share some similarities including fake thumbs, a bamboo based diet, and similar habitat (in China they live in the subtropical forests of the Sichuan/Yunnan area), red pandas and Giant pandas are in no way related. Giant pandas are bears and red pandas are the only animals left in a branch of the animals group Ailuridae, and are more closely related to animals such as raccoons and weasels.
Red pandas are also significantly smaller, about the size of a housecat, and live the majority of their life in the trees. Unfortunately one thing they do have in common with the Giant panda is that both pandas are endangered species. Loss of its habitat due to deforestation from logging and the spread of agriculture has severely decreased their numbers. On the bright side, red pandas do not have as prominent a role in Traditional Chinese Medicine as Giant pandas do, although red panda fur hats are considered good luck in some places which also may accordingly hurt their population. Other tales about the red panda include the idea that seeing a red panda on a business trip is a good omen. Either way, both pandas giant and red can be seen at Chengdu Research Base Giant Panda Breeding facility, something to consider next time you’re dropping by Chengdu.
Note: Red pandas do not make good pets, both because they are wild animals that will destroy your house and also may possess kung-fu skills.
If cute isn’t your thing, then check out some of the weirdest animals in the Middle Kingdom.
Cover photo from China Daily