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Habitat and Distribution
Red Panda, live in temperate climates, in deciduous and coniferous forests, usually with an understorey of bamboo and hollow trees. This makes them a key species of these forests and indicators of forest health. They are found in the Himalayan region, in parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Mynammar and in the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Most of the red pandas of the world occur in China, whereas the majority of the Indian population occur in Arunachal Pradesh.
The adorably cute red panda, also known as cat bear and lesser panda, is largely herbivore and an endangered species. Slightly larger than a domestic cat, an adult red panda in the forest weighs around 4 kg. The lesser panda has retractile claws and, like the Giant Panda, it has a “false thumb” which is really an extension of the wrist bone. Thick fur on the soles offer protection from cold. The pelage is reddish – orange on the body with a long bushy tail. Their ears and areas around the eyes are white with black “tear drops” running from the eyes to the throat. These intricate white markings on the face of a red panda makes it most conspicuous. These species lack sexual dimorphism.
Red pandas are declining over much of their range due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Forests are being cleared for timber extraction, agricultural development and livestock grazing even within national parks and wildlife reserves. This has resulted in the loss of nesting trees and the bamboo understorey on which the species feed. The red panda is also hunted for its pelt, which is used to make traditional hats and clothing in China. Moreover, they are also caught in the wild and kept as pets in certain parts of India and Nepal.
WWF- India's Involvement
WWF-India is currently working to enumerate the status and distribution of red panda in the Khangchendzonga Landscape-involving the states of Sikkim and northern West Bengal. In process is the field data collection on distribution and status of red panda from Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh to identify its potential habitat in the region and enumerate the threats and pressures it faces. Further activities will be to mitigate the threats to the species and its habitat involving different stakeholders such as the government and the local people.
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