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Basil: Male, born on June 27, 2010 at Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana. Arrived on March 18, 2011, from Potawatomi Zoo.
Spark: Female, born at Knoxville Zoological Gardens in Tennessee on June 14, 2010. She arrived in Philadelphia on December 5, 2013.
Mei Lin: Female, born on June 26, 2002 at the Red River Zoo in Fargo, North Dakota. She arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo on July 26, 2011, from the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn, NYC.
JJ: Female, born on June 15, 2002 at the Yokohama Zoological Gardens in Japan. She arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo on January 23, 2014, from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, IL.
Mei Lin and JJ are a little stockier and darker in color than Basil and Spark because they are different subspecies. Basil and Spark are Ailurus fulgens fulgens, while Mei Lin and JJ are Ailurus fulgens refulgens (styani).
The red panda coat is soft, dense and long with a thick under-fur. Their face is light with dark markings. Rust-red stripes beneath each eye separate their white snout from their white cheeks. Their ears are large, upright, pointed and tapered with a white spot on the inside. Red pandas have a long, bushy, reddish-brown tail with distinctly separate pale reddish rings which they use to cover their face and keep their noses warm in the cold.
For tree climbing, the red panda is equipped with razor-sharp claws that are semi-retractable. The soles of their feet are protected with wooly hair that helps to reduce heat loss and the danger of slipping on wet branches. The red panda's large mouth has 38 teeth and powerful jaws used for crushing one of their favorite foods--bamboo. A bone on the inner side of their wrist acts as a "false thumb," and helps them handle bamboo leaves and poles.
They live on forested steep mountain slopes covered with giant rhododendron, oak and bamboo at altitudes of 5,000-13,000 feet.
In the wild and in zoos, red pandas can live up to 14 years.
The red panda has an average of two offspring born between mid-May and July. They usually build their nests in hollow trees or rock crevices. Cubs are born with all of their fur but are blind and helpless. In two to four weeks, their eyes open.
In order to produce enough milk for their young, the mother has to consume 3 times the normal quantity of her low-nutrient bamboo diet. Red pandas are weaned and ready to start eating tender bamboo leaves when they're about five months old. The young stay with their mother for up to one year.
Unless they are provoked, red pandas are usually solitary, shy and quiet. They communicate with each other by shrill cries, repeated whistles, peeping, or bird-like chirping. When they feel threatened, they'll withdraw into rock crevices or trees.
Red pandas are crepuscular and nocturnal. They sleep during the day in shady branches or tree hollows.
A part of the daily activity of the red panda includes grooming. They'll lick the soles of their feet and rub them across their forehead and ears. Grooming takes place primarily after waking or feeding.
Red pandas live in holes in trees and rest in trees. They feed on the ground and can leap as far as four feet. They move very fast and are good, agile climbers.
In cold weather, they rest with their bodies tightly rolled up lying coiled on their side with their head hidden between their hind legs. In warm weather, they stretch out on a branch with limbs hanging down.
Red pandas are small with an overall length of three to three-and-one-half feet.
They weigh approximately 10 to 12 pounds.
Red pandas are mainly vegetarians and will forage on the ground and in trees. In the wild, they eat fruit, roots, bamboo shoots, acorns, berries and lichens and--at times--insects, mice, birds and bird eggs. The red panda often will sit upright to eat and feed like a squirrel. At the Zoo, they are fed a diet of bamboo leaves and formulated pellets, like dog kibble. They also enjoy apples and bananas as treats.
The red (or western lesser) panda's native habitat is in Asia from Nepal into Southwest China.
On the 2011 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the red panda is listed as Vulnerable.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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