Here's one thing you already knew: red pandas are adorable. Although they are not domesticated and therefore probably not suitable as pets, some people still keep them as pets - especially in Nepal and India - and put their adorable pets online for the whole world to see. see them.
Here are seven more facts about red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) that you may not yet know.
- Red pandas are not pandas. Despite their name, red pandas are not really related to giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), but it is only in the last ten or fifteen years that scientists have determined the place of red pandas in the world. tree of life evolution. It was clear that the red pandas were part of the taxonomic "infraorder" Arctoidea, which placed them in a group with bears, pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses), raccoons and mustelids (weasels, skunks, otters and badgers). Research published in 2000 in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution determined that they were not as closely related to bears or raccoons as previously suggested. Rather, red pandas form their own phylogenetic family, alongside skunks, raccoons, and mustelids. Genetically speaking, they are more like skunks and raccoons you might find in your own backyard than the giant pandas they share their habitat with.
- Herbivorous carnivore. As a member of the Order of Carnivores, the red panda is a carnivore. But unlike most carnivores, it is not actually a carnivore. In other words, the red panda is mostly a herbivore. In fact, the red panda looks more like the giant panda than its genetic parents: its diet consists almost entirely of bamboo leaves, seasonal bamboo shoots, and occasionally fruits, flowers and (rarely) an egg. or a bird. The other carnivore, who is also mainly herbivorous? The binturong, that funny cat-bear that smells of popcorn.
- The sweet tooth. Speaking of diet, red pandas love fake sugar. In a 2009 study published in The Journal of Heredity, researchers presented a variety of carnivore species with bowls of still water, naturally sweetened water, or artificially sweetened water. They found that red pandas preferred three artificial sugars: neotame, sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Nutrasweet or Equal). This makes them the only known non-award winning species capable of tasting aspartame, an ability heretofore believed to be unique to monkeys, monkeys and humans of the Old World.
- To mix. If you look at the orange-red tint of the red panda's coat, you might not immediately think that it is "good for camouflage", but this is where you go wrong. It turns out that the red panda is quite good at hiding from predators by disappearing into the branches of fir trees which are usually covered with reddish-brown moss. Which is quite handy since snow leopard death seems to be a particularly bad route.
- A cheese problem. Ok, stay with me on this point. Red pandas, classified as "vulnerable" by IUCN, are threatened by habitat loss and poaching, although they are protected by the legislation of the countries where they are found. As a result of this loss of habitat, wild populations of red pandas are increasingly fragmented. Langtang National Park, in the Himalayas, Nepal, is one of the fragments that house a population of around 40 red pandas. Even inside the national park, these forty pandas are fragmented into four groups. In Langtang, the red pandas have another problem, and that is cheese. You see, the park is also home to two cheese factories which together produce 14,000 kilograms of cheese each year for sale in the nearby city of Kathmandu. To amass the 140,000 liters of milk needed to make cheese, farmers keep large herds of chauri, a hybrid of yak and cow, and these herds are allowed to graze in the park. Competition for food sources with chauris, combined with other death threats from herders and their dogs, has resulted in the deaths of scores of red pandas. "This problem could be solved," write two researchers in the journal Conservation Biology, "by reducing cheese production and limiting the number of chauri while proportionally increasing the price of cheese so that farmers' income from milk remains the same. even".
- Tweet from the red pandas. They don't tweet in 140 characters like you or me, but they do tweet. In fact, to be precise, the sound they make is known as "twitter". According to researchers at the National Zoo, tweeting appears to be primarily used to signal the intention to procreate. Which, now that I think about it, isn't that different from some tweeters of our own kind, either.
- We could have called it the Wah. Red pandas have different names depending on where you are. In Nepal, they are called bhalu biralo. The sherpas call the creature ye niglva ponva or wah donka. But the western world hasn't always called him a red panda. In 1821, the English naturalist Major General Thomas Hardwicke gave a presentation on this creature to the Linnean Society in London. It is generally considered that this is when the red panda first became known to Western science. In his presentation, titled "Description of a New Kind of Class Mammal, from the Himalayan Hill Range between Nepal and the Snow Capped Mountains", he argued that the animal should be called a "wha", explaining: "It is frequently discovered by its loud cry or call, resembling the word 'Wha', often repeating the same: hence the derivative of one of the local names by which it is known. It is also called Chitwa" . Unfortunately, Hardwicke's article was not published until 1827, when the French zoologist Frédéric Cuvier had already published a description of the species accompanied by a drawing. The naming rights therefore went to Cuvier.