Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) - Wiki
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[Photo] Ailurus fulgens auch Roter Panda, Kleiner Panda oder Katzenb??r genannt, im Aachener Zoo, Sommer 2002. Ailurus fulgens or Red Panda in Aachen Zoo, Germany, summer 2002. By User:Brunswyk, gescannt Januar 2006
The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens Latin: "fire-colored cat"), also known as the Lesser Panda, Bear Cat or Fire Fox, is a mostly herbivorous mammal, slightly larger than a domestic cat (55 cm long). The Red Panda has semi-retractile claws and, like the Giant Panda, has a "false thumb" which is really an extension of the wrist bone. Thick fur on the soles of the feet offers protection from cold and hides scent glands. For many decades the taxonomic classification of the panda was under debate as both the red panda and the distantly related giant panda share characteristics of both bears and raccoons. At first glance it may have a raccoon-like appearance.
Taxonomy and Common Name
The Red Panda is often classified as part of the raccoon family (Procyonidae), but many experts, including Wilson and Reeder (1993), now classify it as either a member of the bear family (Ursidae), or in its independent family (Ailuridae). However, it appears to more closely relate to procyonids than the panda. 
The most recent DNA research places the Red Panda in a family within the superfamily Musteloidea (which also contains the mustelid, skunk and raccoon families).
It is native to the Himalayas in India and Nepal and southern China. A handful of fossils have also been discovered in North America. 
Its Western name is taken from a Himalayan language, possibly Nepali, but its meaning is now being worked on. One theory is that "panda" is an anglicisation of "poonya", which means "eater of bamboo". The Red Panda is also known as the Wah because of its distinctive cry. This name was given to it by Thomas Hardwicke, when he introduced it to Europeans in 1821. Other names include Bear-cat, Bright Panda, Cat-bear, Common Panda, Fire Fox, Fox Bear, Lesser Panda, Nigalya Ponya, Panda Chico, Panda ??clatant, Panda Rojo, Petit Panda, Poonya, Crimson Ngo, Red Cat-bear, Sankam, Thokya, Wah, Wokdonka, Woker, and Ye.
The Red Panda, despite having a digestive system more suited to a carnivorous diet, subsists primarily on bamboo. Like the Giant Panda, it cannot digest cellulose, so it must consume a large volume of bamboo to survive. Its diet also includes fruit, roots, acorns, lichen, grasses, and berries and Red Pandas are known to supplement their diet with young birds, eggs, small rodents, and insects on occasion. Captive Red Pandas readily eat meat. Red Pandas are excellent climbers and forage largely in trees. The Red Panda does little more than eat and sleep due to its low-calorie diet.
The Chinese name of the Red Panda is 小熊???; (pinyin: xi??o xi??ng m??o), meaning 'small panda' or, more analytically, 'small bear-cat', in which 'bear-cat' is the Chinese name of the Giant Panda. The Chinese name of the Red Panda is based on that of the Giant Panda, unlike English where the Giant Panda has been named after the Red Panda. The Red Panda is also sometimes known as h??o h?? (火狐), which literally translates as "fire fox", a name which can refer both to the red fox and the Red Panda.
The Red Panda is the state animal of Sikkim. Red Pandas are also just a little bit bigger than a domesticated cat and their cubs are just a little bit bigger than a domesticated kittens. (Kahili, 2006.)
The term firefox, as used to describe the Red Panda, has been propagated by its use in the web browser Mozilla Firefox. Although the browser logo depicts a fox with a fiery tail rather than a Red Panda, in early 2005 the Mozilla Store was selling toy stuffed Red Pandas to promote the browser name change from Firebird with the release of Firefox 1.0 (photo).
Red Pandas have been hunted for their fur and their bushy tail. Their tail is sometimes even turned into feather dusters. Hunters also capture them and sell them illegally to zoos, but that is not going too well because most zoos do not get their animals that way. (Kahili, 2006.)
In May 2005, the Red Panda gained a surge of popularity in Japan when a panda named Futa (風太) living in the Chiba Animal Park was found to be able to stand on his hind legs like a human for up to 30 seconds at a time. Not to be outdone, another zoo, the Yokohama Zoo Zoorasia in Yokohama soon found another "gifted" red panda within their confines, Dale (デ???ル) who was capable of walking a considerable distance bipedal. While both of the standing pandas have gained the species many fans in Japan, both the Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa, Hokkaido and the World Wide Fund for Nature have expressed concern that the increased commercialism of this species may be putting too much burden on the animals. Futa was featured in a commercial for the Japan Tobacco cigarette company.
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