Are Red Pandas Endangered And How Many Are Left In the World?
Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are one of the world’s cutest animals. Although they share a name with the traditional panda, they are not directly related to them and have many differences. First, they are far less massive, weighing only between 7-14 pounds. Additionally, they do not have the traditional black and white coat. Instead, they sport a brown, red, and white coat. While these captivating critters used to exist in large numbers, recent factors have caused their population to dwindle. That begs the question, how many red pandas are left in the world? This article will explore the current global population of red pandas, their conservation status, and the factors contributing to it.
Are Red Pandas Endangered?
People commonly call red pandas “firefox” due to their red coloring and fox-like appearance. These small pandas live in coniferous, temperate broadleaf and mixed forests with dense bamboo close to water. These pandas are primarily inhabit the Himalayan mountains. Their population and conservation status have changed throughout the past years. In 1990, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) deemed their population insufficiently known. Between 1994 and 2008, their status fluctuated between vulnerable and endangered. Experts classified red pandas as endangered in 2015, and their status has remained unchanged. Experts have observed a rapid 50% decline in their population over the last few years and expect this decline to continue. Unfortunately, it appears that their calculations have been correct so far.
How Many Red Pandas Are Left in the World?
Scientists discovered Red panda fossils in North America, dating back 5 million years. However, red pandas currently inhabit only China, Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Burma.
While red pandas used to be plentiful, that is unfortunately no longer the case. Just in the last few years, these panda populations have begun to dwindle rapidly. In 2001, there were an estimated 14,800 red pandas in the world, and now there are an estimated less than 10,000 red pandas left globally. Although the exact number remains unknown, experts estimate that there are fewer than 10,000 red pandas worldwide, classifying the species as endangered.
How Did Red Pandas Reach Their Current Population Levels?
Dramatic drops don’t happen overnight, so what exactly caused this animal’s population to dwindle? Unfortunately for the red panda, not just one thing worked against them. Multiple factors have contributed to — and continue to contribute to — this furry fire fox’s declining population. Between human threats, habitat degradation, and other natural predators, this species seems to have the odds stacked against them.
Humans are a direct and indirect threat to red pandas’ conservation status. They are a threat to them directly for two reasons. First, poachers often target red pandas for their fur. People frequently sell and treasure their beautiful red fur for use in the clothing industry. Red pandas also frequently become ensnared in traps intended for other animals, like wild boars.
Indirectly, humans affect the red panda by interfering with their environment and habitat. Humans are constantly destroying places where these animals would live or get their resources and turning them into a space that solely benefits humans. The red panda struggles to survive and procreate with limited land and resources. Also, humans’ contribution to climate change directly affects the red pandas.
Multiple threats are posing dangers to the red pandas’ habitat. Loggers, forest clearers, and road constructors are responsible for much of their habitat loss. People cut down trees for firewood, timber production, and other uses. They also clear entire sections for farming or domestic stock grazing purposes and build roads and other man-made structures that need space. Climate change also plays a huge part in the destruction of the red panda’s habitat. Increasing temperatures have been related to droughts, leading to unusual weather patterns and forest fires, both of which leave their destructive mark on the red panda’s home.
Natural Predators and Competitors
In addition to human threats and deforestation, red pandas still have to worry about becoming a tasty treat to their natural-born predators. In their habitat, red pandas need to worry about leopards, dholes, Asian golden cats, Golden eagles, and many more creatures. While their natural predators are just a part of the circle of life —and are usually helpful to keep a population under control — with the red pandas already dwindling numbers, everything that is a threat to the red panda becomes more significant.
Threats from predators are not the only form of natural threat that these pandas face. They also have the struggle of having a limited food supply. Although red pandas belong to a carnivorous group of mammals, the main staple of their diet is bamboo. Unfortunately for the panda, they are not the only animal that enjoys this tasty vegetation. Other animals like the Assamese macaque, capped langur, elephant, wild pig, porcupine, giant panda, and bamboo rats also enjoy eating bamboo shoots.
The Good News
All of these factors coming into play and the lack of enforcement of wildlife laws within reserves paints a fearful picture for the red panda population. Human populations are continuing to grow. In the red panda’s habitat range, between 1971 and 1991, the human population almost doubled. While that is doubling, the red panda numbers are dwindling. The good news? Conservation efforts are finally underway to help prevent the permanent loss of this incredible species. Fines and strict regulations are being implemented in areas with high red panda populations. However, it will take a combined effort of those across the globe to help make a positive impact and prevent the extinction of this incredible creature.
Additionally, besides incredible zoos like the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, which house and care for red pandas, places where they naturally exist are now designating protected areas for these creatures. Below, you can find the number of protected areas in each of the red panda’s countries of habitat.
|Country||# of Protected Areas|
|India||20 protected areas |
|China||35 protected areas|
|Nepal||Eight protected areas|
|Bhutan||Five protected areas|
|Burma||Three protected areas|
Why You Should Care About Red Pandas
Apart from just a genuine love and caring attitude for the well-being of living creatures, there are other reasons that caring about the red panda’s population status should concern people. According to the Red Panda Network, “they are the only species of their kind and are ambassadors for a landscape that supports over 500 million people, nearly 10% of the global human population.”
Red pandas inhabit the Eastern Himalayan broadleaf forest and play a critical role in its survival. Why does that matter? The forests where the red pandas live are called “the lungs of South Asia.” They help combat climate change and pollution and ensure that we have healthy, breathing air. Additionally, these pandas are an indicator of the overall health of the Himalayan forest, in which a variety of other important species live. Also, much of China’s main water sources come from this forest, so maintaining the forest and its inhabitants’ health is key.
Also, by default, we save more trees if we save more red pandas. Red pandas are a tree-dwelling species, meaning in order to save their populations, we would need to limit the destruction and cutting down of trees. Having more trees not only allows red pandas to flourish but also other threatened wildlife. Not to mention having more trees to help purify the air that we all breathe.
Helping the Red Panda Population
Those who live near the red panda habitats are not the only ones with a hand in their fate. Even if you live thousands of miles away, you can still help the red panda and its population return. One thing that you can do is research organizations that support the red panda conservation efforts. Find one that resonates with you, and donate if you desire and are able to. Another thing you can do is work with zoos and wildlife foundations that have the option to adopt a panda. Additionally, anything you can do at home to reduce your carbon footprint. Remember, small changes can be felt everywhere.
Any little impact you make to better the planet and the environment will help climate change, which in turn helps the pandas. Finally, just raising awareness and sharing what you know about the red panda’s situation. Raising awareness of how many red pandas are left in the world spreads the word to more people so that we have all hands on deck when facing the challenge of raising the red panda population.
Red Alert! 5 Incredible Red Panda Facts
Check out these five incredible red panda facts!
- The red panda is the original panda and was discovered years before the giant panda.
- Red pandas use their tail to help them balance in the trees.
- Although they mainly feast on bamboo, the red panda’s digestive system is better suited for a carnivorous diet.
- Red pandas have a psuedo thumb.
- Red pandas spend two-thirds of their day sleeping.
Red Panda FAQ’s
Besides knowing how many red pandas are left in the world, here are some other common questions about red pandas and their answers.
Why are red pandas so rare?
Red pandas are so rare because of all the threats that they face. Those threats include habitat loss, poaching, forest degradation, natural predators, and climate changes that affect their homes.
Do red pandas eat meat?
While they can eat meat — and their digestive system is actually more suited towards it — red pandas rarely eat meat. Their diet mainly consists of bamboo.
Are red pandas dangerous?
While red pandas have aggressive tendencies, they are not considered dangerous animals. Like with all other wild animals, you should not approach them. Additionally, they are solitary animals and do not enjoy much company.
What are red pandas best known for?
Despite their unique appearance and adorable looks, red pandas are often known for their acrobatic skills, which they hone to perfection by scurrying around the trees. They are also often known for their adorable standing-up position. However, when they are in that position, it is a defensive and aggressive position, so you should stay a safe distance away.
When did the red panda population decline?
While the red panda population has been decreasing since the 1920s, there was a big decline between 2001-2016, with a steady decrease in numbers each year. Almost 5,000 red pandas were lost during that time.