EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Smaller than a house cat but with the same attitude, Red Pandas are adored by many. They are fluffy and cute and look like a real life stuffed animal. It comes as no surprise to find out they have their very own day!
International Red Panda Day was started by the Red Panda Network in 2010 to raise awareness about factors pushing them towards total extinction. The day takes place on September 18 every year. Zookeepers from the Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden say there are a few reasons, red pandas are going extinct.
Experts say the name Panda, in Nepalese means bamboo eater, which is why giant pandas and red pandas share the name. Records show red pandas were discovered 50 years before giant pandas. They are reportedly more related to raccoons than giant pandas. Reports say they are carnivores who adapted to eating bamboo and occasionally do also eat small mammals.
According to officials, there are less than 10,000 red pandas left in the wild after being discovered in 1853 and labeled endangered in 2008.
Zookeepers say habitat destruction, especially climate change and global warming, are big factors causing the species numbers to dwindle. These nocturnal animals are best suited for the cooler temperatures of the eastern Himalayas in Nepal, so they don’t tolerate the heat well. Reports say red pandas even have fur on the bottom of their paws like a snowshoe to keep their feet warm in the cold.
They say humans play a role as well. “All of our decisions like using bamboo in our paper products, illegal pets and trafficking affect animals all over the world” says one zookeeper. “Red Pandas are loosing their home as more bamboo trees are cut down to be used for humans.”
Due to their cute nature, they are trafficked to be exotic pets for people who can afford them says the zookeeper, “They are very cute but they are not great pets, they are best left alone in their habitat and observed from a distance.”
Due to the high demand of their fur for hat and clothes, they are also in danger of being hunted by illegal poachers who will sell their fur for money. Reports say while countries like India, Bhutan, China, Nepal and Myanmar have laws to legally protect them, it is often not enforced well in the Himalayan mountains.
The Nepalese government is reported to not have enough funds for research on how to save the ‘firefoxes’ as they are called. However, the Red Panda Network is playing a big role in their conservation efforts by educating, protecting and tracking the remaining wild red pandas.
While we only celebrate them once a year, red pandas still need help all year round.
On the Red Panda Network website, they even offer many ways to help their cause, including options for donations and an option to symbolically adopt a red panda which is a perfect way to celebrate International Red Panda Day!
How will you choose to celebrate the day? Let Eyewitness News know your favorite animal and why, on Facebook under the hashtag, #WEHTfavoriteanimal.