• Aditi Saksena

How can you protect Red Pandas



Red Panda Sleeping on a log clicked by Thomas Bonometti, source: Unsplash
Red Panda- by Thomas Bonometti

Who doesn't remember the legendary children’s blockbuster- Kung Fu panda? But did you know that Po (obviously a Panda) was not the only panda they featured? His sensei, Master Shifu, was also a panda. This incited two thoughts in my head- One, he is white! (but I think that’s just racism) and two, he looks nothing like a panda! (is that animal-ist?)

This is why my team and I decided to find out what exactly Master Shifu is. Turns out, he is an animal species called Red Pandas. Thank you Screen Rant.

Every third Saturday in the month of September, which is today on the 18th of September, animal enthusiasts celebrate something they call the International Red Panda Day

Red Panda Playing in the tree clicked by Micheal Payne, Source: Unsplash
Red Panda- by Micheal Payne

The sole objective of that being garnering more attention towards Red Pandas, and rightfully so. And we jumped on the bandwagon of this awareness day. Our article today would talk a little less about Master Shifu and a little more about his species- the Red Panda, we will venture into why they are in the shadows and also divert attention to what their current status is and if there is something we can do to improve their conditions.


What is a Red Panda?

Their IUCN status

Why are they endangered?

What can we do to protect them?

So let’s dive in!


What is a Red Panda?

I think we already established that Red Pandas are a type of panda. Funnily, there has been a lot of debate on what family do they really fit into. Red Pandas when first described were placed into the Raccoon family owing to their skull formation, however, later inspired by the Nepali word “Ponya” which means Bamboo- eating. They were called Red Pandas, and this is where The Giant Pandas, the far more famous cousins then got their names from. The Red Pandas were bestowed with this name 50 years before the Pandas got theirs, making them the "Original Pandas" or the "True Pandas", not our round, cuddly, lazy, fluffy pandas that we know of today.

Infographic on Red Panda. Habitat, height, IUCN status- International Red Panda Day
Basics of being a Red Panda

Where can you find them? Well, they prefer the cold weather, and their habitats can be found in the Eastern Himalayas which houses about 50% of their current habitat, Nepal which houses about 38% of their current habitat and the rest is spread between Myanmar and China. In fact, they are so unique that Sikkim has chosen Red Pandas as their state animal.

Another interesting fact about them is that contrary to the lazy bamboo-eating Giant Pandas we love and adore, Red Pandas are actually very acrobatic and skillful climbers and love to spend all their time in isolation in trees. They are about the size of a domesticated cat and have very distinctive features. Two features I found out about them while researching that made my mind go Kaboom were…

  1. If you look at their face closely, you will notice a reddish 'tear track' that extends from their eyes to the corner of their mouth. It is debated that this track may help keep the sun out of their eyes.

  2. The white on their face is "almost luminescent" and can guide a mother's lost cubs in the darkness.

With a master that has those supernatural features, Poo was in really good hands, no offense Master Oogway.


The IUCN status

With that, I think we updated our knowledge bank on Red Panda a little more than when we originally started. But why is it that we celebrate International Red Pandas Day? This awareness celebration was started by Red Panda Network in 2010 due to the alarming rate of their decline.

The IUCN for those who are unaware stands for International Union for Conservation of Nature. The organization runs a lot of different conservation efforts and programs to bring back our animals into the wild. The IUCN lists are one of the most well-researched and constantly updated lists and are followed by all wildlife organizations across the planet. The IUCN Red list, unfortunately, places the Red Pandas in the Endangered Species list as including all locations that their habitats are in, the total number is estimated to be 2,500 individuals in the wild. There is a significant debate between how many Red Pandas are still out there due to the lack of information, the number currently agreed on is Less than 10,000 individuals.


Why are they endangered?

I wish I could say this wasn’t the fault of humans, but like most other animals and the reason behind their population decline, humans are in a large part to be blamed for the decline of Red Pandas.

  1. Habitat Encroachment- Humans have bloomed their population to such a point and our consumer behavior has increased so much that we always want more. Red Pandas are tree- dwellers, while technically they are carnivores in terms of their anatomy, they are vegetarians. This means that trees are not only where they live but also their source of food. Between Bamboos and Berries, they make up about 98% of their diets and occasionally eat eggs, birds, and insects. Everything is supplied by a tree. Deforestation in their habits not only means taking away their homes but also their source of food.

  2. Poaching- Poaching is the nightmare of every animal and Wildlife conservationist. Red Pandas are an extensive victim of poaching. I am not going to name countries, but we as a species are responsible for the outdated ideology that comes from status. Red Pandas are poached for their meat, their fur and are even kidnapped for exotic pet businesses.

  3. Mistaken Identities- This one is an accidental reason, however, the amount of times that it happens is significant. Red Pandas get caught accidentally in traps that are laid out for other animals such as wild pigs.

  4. Climate Change- This is the only reason that humans are not directly involved. While the debate about Climate change and the reason it's happening has been a long-standing debate, we can not claim that it has nothing to do with our actions and our choices. Red Pandas need a colder climate which is why they prefer living above in snowy areas. However, due to climate change, the current temperatures are rising and that means that their habit is growing warmer and warmer with each day. Leaving them with only one logical move, traveling upwards, however, this would mean a decline in trees and hence their food. Eventually leading to starvation.


What can You and I do?

We don’t need everyone in the world to carry out conservation on a large scale. We just need everyone to take one step that suits them the most, a small-scale change. This action could be something as simple as starting a conversation or something as huge as starting a petition for our policymakers to reconsider their priorities. But, I'll give you a few more ways that can really make a difference for not only Red Pandas but every animal in every Ecology and unarguably the whole world.

How can you protect a red Panda- International Red Panda Day
Ways of protecting Red Pandas
  • Educate yourself and others- It is said knowledge is power. We will yield this weapon and bring forward the power of education. Start conversations with your parents or children about these animals, debunk the various myths and misinformation that is associated with them. We might pride ourselves on being the smartest species but we are nothing without these animals. They are what keep our ecology healthy.

  • Donate- You don’t always have to donate money. You can also donate your time to various organizations around the world that need volunteers and learn more about these animals one on one. You can inspire everyone around you to also take part in the efforts. More the merrier. However, if wild is not your thing, you can also donate money to various conservational efforts and programs around the world. Interestingly, Red Panda Network and WWF have an ‘Adopt a Red Panda’ initiative, where you can symbolically adopt a Red Panda and help in funding projects relating to them.

If you are unsure of the organization that you want to donate you can always reach out to us on our email khakhed@gmail.com or our instagram and leave us a message. We will definitely love to help you out.

  • Being a responsible tourist- If you are traveling to the Himalayas, Bhutan, China, Sikkim, Myanmar please look into their Eco-tourism practices as well as support the local economy. You can also visit Red Panda Network to look into their Eco- tours in what they call a Red Panda Country.

  • Looking at a bigger picture- You can take part in local ecology clean-up like if you live by a beach, make sure to volunteer your time for beach clean-ups.

  • Remember to Reuse, Reduce, Repurpose and Recycle your daily use items, this would help divert waste from the landfills as well as reduce the pressure the ecology is under.

You can also follow us on instagram to know where you can shop for amazing products that you use in your households while maintaining minimal environmental impacts. We often spotlight brands that are doing good and are sustainable and eco-friendly.


We hope we were able to inspire you to try and save our cute little non-panda Panda friend. If you like our work please share this article with your friends and family and let's initiate a dominoes of awareness together. If you are someone who enjoys listening to podcasts do give The Wilderness Live a chance, it is hosted by Aditi Rose Saksena (the writer of this article) and Aashutosh Ingle.


 

The content belongs to the Writer. In case you want to use it, please get in touch with Khakhed at khakhed@gmail.com

The designs belong to the Designer. In case you want to use it, please get in touch with Khakhed at khakhed@gmail.com


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