Ailurus fulgens


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Ailurus fulgens
Species Authority: F.G. Cuvier, 1825
Common Name/s:
English Red Panda, Lesser Panda, Red Cat-bear
French Panda Éclatant, Petit Panda
Spanish Panda Chico, Panda Rojo

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable C1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Wang, X., Choudhury, A., Yonzon, P., Wozencraft, C. & Than Zaw
Reviewer/s: Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Vulnerable because its population is estimated at less than 10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline of greater than 10% over the next 3 generations (estimated at 30 years). The population decline in the last three generations (30 years) is estimated to be less than 30%, and therefore the species does not qualify under criteria A.
1996 Endangered (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
1996 Endangered
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Insufficiently Known (IUCN 1990)
1988 Insufficiently Known (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The distribution of Ailurus fulgens in the wild is poorly known, but its range is known to include Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and southern China, with a disjunct population on the Meghalaya Plateau of northeastern India (Choudhury 2001). The westernmost limit of this species is from the Annapurana Range in Nepal, and the easternmost is from the Qing Ling Mountains of the Shaanxi Province in China. The distribution range of this species should be considered disjunct, rather than continuous (Roberts and Gittleman 1984). It is found from the southern part of the Gaoligong Shan on the Myanmar-China border (25ºN), to Minshan Mountains and upper Min Valley, Sichuan (33ºN) (Ellerman and Morrison-Scott 1966, Macdonald 1984, Corbet and Hill 1992, Choudhury 1997). Although Roberts and Gittleman (1984) record it as occurring only above 2,200 m, it can be found from 1,500 to 4,800 m, and on the Meghalaya Plateau it is found from 700 to 1,400 m (Choudhury 1997), sometimes as low as 200 m (Surajit Roy pers. comm.). Pradhan et al. (2001) found that this species' preferred altitudinal range in Singhalila National Park in eastern Himalayas was 2,800 to 3,100 m, and it was relatively more abundant between 2,800 to 3,600 m.

In China, the Red Panda is found in the Minshan, Qionglai, Liangshan, Bigger Xiangling, and Lesser Xiangling Mountains in western Sichuan, China (Wei et al.1999a, 1999b, 2000), but former assertions of occurrence in far southern Yunnan, in Xishuangbanna (e.g. Wang Yingxiang 1987) have not been corroborated (e.g. Wei Fuwen et al. 1998). It is believed to have gone extinct from the rest of its historical range in China, e.g. Guizhou, Gansu, Shaanxi, and Qinghai provinces (Wei et al. 1999).

In Myanmar it is known only from the northernmost state, Kachin, and is locally distributed even there (Than Zaw et al. in prep.).

The red panda was reported as occurring in northern Lao PDR by Deuve (1972) (citing Cheminaud 1942), though recent village interviews around Phongsali in 1996 and 2003–2004 yielded no positive indication of its occurrence. Additionally, re-examination of the historical basis for occurrence reveals significant internal inconsistencies and flaws. Hence, there is no evidence that red panda has ever occurred in Lao PDR, although it may still be found to occur there is future surveys (Duckworth et al. 1999; in prep).
Bhutan; China; India; Myanmar; Nepal
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: “It is estimated to be more common in the eastern part of its range, especially along the Myanmar-Yunnan border, yet it cannot be considered a common species” (Roberts and Gittleman 1984). An estimate based on the lowest recorded average density (one individual per 4.4 km²) and the total area of potential habitat (142,000 km², with only about half of this actually being used by the species) suggests that the global population of this species is about 10,000 individuals (Choudhury and Yonzon pers. comm.) Observation of this species is difficult due to its shy and secretive nature, and its largely nocturnal habits (Choudhury 2001). There is an estimate of one animal per 3.9 km² for Singalila National Park and adjacent areas (Bahuguna et al. 1998). Yonzon and Hunter (1991) estimate a density of one animal per 2.0 to 11.0 km², with averages of 2.8 in 1986 and 4.4 in 1987, in Langtang National Park in Nepal. Choudhury (2001) reports a lower population density in the western part of its distribution in Nepal, as compared areas in the east such as Arunachal Pradesh. Anecdotal evidence based on local villager captures suggests the species may be common in the northernmost parts of Myanmar, especially in the Hkakaborazi National Park, however, recent camera-trapping surveys did not capture any red pandas in the area (Rabinowitz and Khaing, 1998, Than Zaw et al. in prep.) Pradhan et al. (2001) reports a crude density of 1 individual per 1.67 km² in Singhalila National Park in India. It has been found to be relatively common in Tawang and northern West Kameng Districts and in Mishmi Hills, especially Dibang Valley and Lohit Districts (Choudhury 2001). It is estimated that their numbers may have decreased by as much as 40% over the last 50 years due to massive habitat loss, increased human activity and poaching (Wei et al. 1999 which?). Wei et al. (1999) estimated 3,000 to 7,000 total individuals in China, while Choudhury (2001) estimates 5,000-6,000 in India.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Red Panda is found closely associated with temperate forest having bamboo-thicket understories (Roberts and Gittleman 1984). This species is sympatric with the Giant Panda in the Minshan, Qionglai, Liangshan, Bigger Xiangling, and Lesser Xiangling Mountains in western Sichuan, China (Wei et al.1999a, 1999b, 2000). In a study of microhabitat use by this species in Sichuan Province, China, it was found that this species spends most of its time in Bashania faberi bamboo forest, and prefers microhabitats containing higher densities of fallen logs and tree stumps (Zhang et al. 2006). "Bamboo leaves are the main winter food resource for red pandas (Wei et al. 1999c, 2000). Because of their small body size, red pandas may utilize fallen logs and tree stumps to gain access to bamboo leaves (Zhang et al. 2006). It is found in tropical and subtropical forests on the Meghalaya Plateau of India, while elsewhere it is found in subtropical and temperate forests (Choudhury 2001). Red panda diet is largely vegetarian, and consists chiefly of young leaves and shoots of bamboo, yet also includes fruit, roots, succulent grasses, acorns, lichens, bird eggs, insects, and grubs (Choudhury 2001). This species is largely arboreal (Choudhury 2001). Pradhan et al. (2001) found 79% of records to be 0 to 100 m from the presence of water bodies, indicating that the presence of water may be an important habitat requisite for this species.

The mean gestation in captivity is reported by Roberts and Gittleman (1984) as 134.2 days, with litter sizes ranging from one to four, and young are sexually mature at 18 month.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Red Panda is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression (Wei et al. 1998). Habitat loss is considered to be the biggest threat to this species, while poaching is the next biggest threat in the Indian portion of its range and some localized areas (Choudhury 2001), whereas poaching and hunting pose a greater threat in areas of China and Myanmar, particularly in Hkakaborazi and adjacent areas. The ultimate cause of these threats to the red panda is the high growth rate in human populations within the species' range and in surrounding nearby areas (Choudhury 2001). The growth rate of the local human population has almost doubled between 1971 and 1991, causing increased pressure on land for both housing and farming, as well as increased demand for firewood (Choudhury 2001).

The major causes of habitat loss are commercial logging, demand for firewood (especially in the cold Himalaya), clearing for habitation and farming, jhum (slash-and-burn shifting cultivation) by hill tribes, grazing of domestic stock, monoculture forest plantation, and various developmental activities (Choudhury 2001). Due to human encroachment in suitable forest habitat and the unusual biology of bamboos, the red panda may be near extinction in the western part of its range, especially in Nepal (Roberts and Gittleman 1984). Both legal and illegal felling of old-growth trees is occurring throughout its range in India, and in the Khast Hills of Meghalaya some of the best habitat is privately owned, potentially making conservation efforts difficult (Choudhury 2001).

Deforestation, which causes fragmentation, is the fundamental threat to this species long-term survival (Wei et al. 1999 ). Between 1980 and 1995 the number of tourists visiting Sikkim annually rose from 1000 to 100,000 (Mahapatra 1998), causing increased pressure on this species due to accelerating habitat loss for firewood (for cooking and heating) (Choudhury 2001). Similar threats are occurring in the Singalila area of Darjeeling and in Nepal (Choudhury 2001). Habitat is effectively stable in northernmost Myanmar (Renner et al. 2007), but elsewhere in Kachin where the panda might occur there are indications of rapid habitat degradation through deforestation in this area (B.F. King pers. comm. 1998, cited in Collar et al. 2001).

Road construction in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh over the past two decades has led to large-scale felling of trees and erosion, and sometimes landslides, also opening up formerly inaccessible areas for both legal and illegal logging (Choudhury 2001). Increased fragmentation of habitat leads to inbreeding and loss of genetic variation, which may significantly impact localized populations, as well as possible increased pressure from hunting (Choudhury 2001).

Hunting does not appear to be as serious a threat to the Red Panda as habitat loss, since hunters do not appear to deliberately hunt this species, but rather is shot opportunistically and caught accidentally in snares during hunting for wild pig, deer, goat-antelopes (serow, goral, and takin) and primates (Choudhury 2001). In Bhutan, the red panda is hunted for making fur caps or hats (Yonten, 2004). In China, Red Panda pelts can be found in many local markets (Glatson 1994). Wei et al (1998) report data which indicate that hunting and poaching pressures are severe in China, especially to a declining population, which has led to increased declines, and extinctions in some areas. Poaching is considered one of the most serious threats in China (Wang pers. comm.).

Cub mortality of the species is high in areas surrounding cattle grazing activities, estimated at up to 74% (Yonzon pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Red Panda is covered under CITES Appendix I (Duckworth et al. 1999), and Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, the highest protection possible for a species in India (Choudhury 2001). It is also legally protected in Bhutan, China (where it is classed as a category II species under the Wild Animal Protection Law (Wei et al. 1999a), and Nepal (Glatston 1994). In China, the species is Red Listed as Vulnerable A2ace. The species is protected in Myanmar by the Wildlife Act of 1994 and is found in at least one, probably several, protected areas (Than Zaw et al. in prep.).

There are 20 protected areas in India that have known or possible populations of this species, yet these protected areas cover only about one-third of the total potential habitat for this species (Choudhury 2001). Protection of this species is more or less adequate in the protected areas of India, due more to their remoteness and difficulty of terrain, rather than actual enforcement of laws (Choudhury 2001). Enforcement of protective legislation, especially outside of protected areas, is virtually non-existent (Choudhury, 2001). Outside of India, China has 35 protected areas (Wei et al. 1998) covering about 42.4% of this species habitat in China, Nepal has eight, and Bhutan has five that support known or reported populations of this species (Choudhury 2001). The red panda has been recorded from Singalila National Park (Bahuguna et al. 1998), and Langtang National Park in Nepal (Yonzon and Hunter 1991).

Choudhury (2001) provides the following conservation recommendations: expansion and strengthening of the protected area network, prevention of illegal felling, control of jhum cultivation and overgrazing, regulation of tourism, public awareness of threatened status of this species, and enforcement of existing legal protections. The population of the species, reported at 200 m, is a research priority in order to study how a temperate species has survived in a subtropical habitat.
Citation: Wang, X., Choudhury, A., Yonzon, P., Wozencraft, C. & Than Zaw 2008. Ailurus fulgens. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 19 April 2014.
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