Little Red Panda

Posted at 3:19 pm January 15, 2008 by Nerissa Foland

 red pandaAcross the street from our much beloved giant pandas we have another panda I’d like to introduce: our little red panda, Julong. Red pandas are endemic to the Himalayas, Southern China, India, Nepal, and Burma. They are mostly solitary but sometimes live in small family groups. They have beautiful soft, reddish brown fur, white faces with red tear markings, and a distinct long, bushy tail with six alternating red and yellow rings. Along with habitat fragmentation, the red panda’s tail has led to its current endangered status. Although they are protected in all countries in which they live, in southwest China they are hunted specifically for their tails, thought to be good-luck charms for newlywed couples.

Julong is a western red panda, and although the name may appear that they are related to giant pandas, the two subspecies of red pandas, western and the larger Styan’s red panda, are actually in their own family, Ailuridae, and are distantly related to raccoons, weasels, and skunks.

Red pandas are mostly herbivorous, with a diet consisting of about two thirds bamboo. They also eat some berries, fruit, roots, grasses, and occasionally eggs and small rodents. At the San Diego Zoo, we feed Julong fresh bamboo daily, along with specially formulated biscuits and, on occasion, fresh apple pieces or his favorite, grapes.

If you visit Julong, you’ll notice he spends most of his time on a bamboo shelf in the upper level of his exhibit. Red pandas live mainly in the trees and are quite adept at climbing. Since they are crepuscular, active mostly at dawn and dusk, their long body, short legs, and bushy tails help balance them while they snooze the day away and search for food at night. Living the twilight years of his life (red pandas can live to be 15), Julong does a bit more snoozing than cruising nowadays, although he always perks up when he hears his keepers come by for a visit. Who knows, he may just get another grape for his efforts!

So next time you visit our Giant Panda Research Station, stroll across the street and say hello to Julong. Don’t worry: even if he sleeps right through your visit, there’s still nothing cuter than our little red panda.

Nerissa Foland is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

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13 Responses to “Little Red Panda”

  1. Kris says:

    I will be there this weekend and I will definitely check out the little red panda! :)

  2. Shirley Sykes says:

    Thanks so much for the update on Julong, the beautiful red panda. I’ve often felt that he and the fascinating Chinese deer next-door to his east are the somehow ” forgotten” residents of the zoo. It’s lovely to watch the deer and their rapidly growing fawns. Are there any plans to breed Julong? He is truly handsome!

  3. Nerissa says:

    Shirley- although he is certainly a fine example of a red panda, there are no plans to breed him in the near future.

  4. Mae in NJ says:

    Such beautiful creatures! Too bad I only got a peek of a tail when I visited last year. The National Zoo also has a great exhibit of red pandas. I wish them a long life enjoying grapes and other delectables.

  5. Margaret says:

    Nerissa, Red Pandas are one of our favorites at the NZP. We got some great pictures up close at the Research Station in Front Royal VA. They are much smaller than Giant Pandas, and have very cute faces and comical behaviors. We fell in love with them immediately. I even sent holiday cards with Red Pandas on the cover to my special animal loving friends.

    I hope Julong gets lots of attention in his golden years from his keepers so he isn’t always by himself.

  6. Kaleb says:

    Thanks for the article Nerissa! I love Julong!!!!!!

  7. Mary says:

    There are is also a red panda in the children’s zoo, and a couple more in the exhibit area behind the polar bears. Those near the polar bears are sometimes easier to see. On more than one occassion I’ve caught them napping as they lay on their bellies and their feet dangle from both sides of a branch. Too cute!

  8. Naomi says:

    I really like Julong.He is so cute!Thank you so much for the article!

  9. Kaleb says:

    Thanks for the article Nerissa! Julong is so awsome!!!!!!

  10. Emmory says:

    Red Pandas are so unique. That’s why I’m doing my school project on them. Go red pandas, GO!!!!!

  11. Dr.madan K.S.Shanker says:

    Nerissa,well delighted to read the article on Red panda.I belong to Sikkim State(India),whose State Animal is “Red Panda”.Fortunately,I am also associated with the Red Panda Conservation Programme at Himalayan Zoological Park at Gangtok. Sikkim owns six protected areas and one national park(Kanchendzonga National Park) where these cute and fascinating animals are available. Himalayan Zoological park has also witnessed captive breeding programme of Red panda since the year 1999. The rescue operation & hand rearing of abandoned wild cubs form Panda habitat and breeding them in captivity is one of the unique achievement of our zoo. Presently,we proudly announce that we have the pure wild progeny. Experiences gathered for this good cause are to be shared.

  12. Rae says:

    Julong’s young granddaughter, Hope, born at the CRC in VA, currently resides at Trevor Zoo in Millbrook NY. She’ll soon be introduced to Pang Pang, who was transferred from Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. It would be so exciting to have Julong’s great-grandcubs at Trevor Zoo!

    Moderator’s note: Thanks for the update!

  13. Shmuel says:

    Hello, I live in Israel and am doing a study on red pandas.

    I know almost everything about Stayn’s red panda. We have one at our zoo it’s name is Simon! He is really cute but soon he will die, ever since we got him at the age of 4 years (We gave 2 Asian elephants for him and 1 Million dollars). Now we are looking for a lucky female to join him. He is now almost 11 years old.

    This article is GREAT! Thanks.

    I would love to visit your zoo, and especially Julong!