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The Red Panda, also called the Firefox, Firecat, or Lesser Panda (taxonomic name: Ailurus fulgens, "shining cat"), is a small arboreal mammal and the only species of the genus Ailurus. Slightly larger than a domestic cat, it has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs. It eats mainly bamboo, but is omnivorous and may also eat eggs, birds, insects, and small mammals. It is a solitary animal, mainly active at dusk, dawn, and night, and is largely sedentary during the day.
Endemic to the temperate forests of the Himalayas, the Red Panda ranges from Nepal in the west to China in the east. It is also found in northern India, Bhutan and northern Myanmar. Accurate population figures in the wild are difficult to find, with estimates ranging from 11,000 to 20,000 worldwide. Although it is protected by law in all countries where it lives, its numbers in the wild continue to decline mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and inbreeding depression.
The Red Panda is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN red list (2009.01), and is listed in CITES appendix I. It has been previously classified in the families Procyonidae (raccoon) and Ursidae (bears), but recent research has placed it in its own family Ailuridae.Two subspecies are recognized.
The Red Panda is quite adaptable to living in captivity and is common in zoos worldwide. As of 2006 the international studbook listed more than 800 individuals in zoos and parks around the world.