Red Panda Animals & Plants

About the Red Panda

Fota Wildlife Park’s connection with the Red Panda made headlines in 2010 when a baby panda - later named Rua - was unexpected born in Cork. The only species of its kind in the world, the animal is often referred to as the Firefox or Lesser Panda and is up to 120cm in length, including an impressive tail of up to 60cm long. 

It has long, soft reddish-brown fur with black and white markings as well as piercing black eyes, and the female is slightly smaller than the male. There are two known sub species of the Red Panda - one (Ailurus fulgens fulgens) is found in Nepal, India and parts of China, while the other (Ailurus fulgens styani) lives solely in China.

Habitat

The Red Panda is native to the temperate forests of the Himalayas, stretching from western Nepal to China but can be found at altitudes of up to 4,800 metres above sea level.

Wild Notes

Even though it belongs to the Carnivora order, it’s a mostly herbivorous mammal that eats the tender shoots of bamboo leaves as its main food choice. Its diet is supplemented by fruit, insects and small animals, especially in warmer seasons.

A skillful and acrobatic animal that lives predominantly high up in trees, the Red Panda has sharp claws to help it grip on to bark while its bushy tail acts as a balancing aid. It lives in territories, frequently alone and rarely in pairs or family groups.

After a gestation period of 112 to 158 days, the female gives birth to between one and four blind cubs. This usually occurs between the end of May and the beginning of July. A few days prior to giving birth, the female will start to collect nesting materials and generally locates her nest in a secure tree hollow or a rock column.

Conservation

Considered to be Endangered, it is thought that fewer than 2,500 mature individuals remain in the wild. Threats to their survival vary according to different regions but include hunting, competition from domestic livestock and habitat destruction.

Did you know?

According to DNA tests, the Red Panda is actually a closer relative of the Racoon than the Giant Panda and has a thumb pad on each of its hands. The Panda uses this while eating - pressing it against another pad on its palm in order to hold and manipulate the bamboo.

The Fota Connection

The Park has always fed its Red Pandas with locally-grown bamboo that is plucked fresh on Fota Island. Making up the bulk of the species’ diet, the plant flourishes in the relatively mild temperatures of southeast Cork and its availability can be traced back to the island’s connection with the gardens and arboretum of nearby Fota House.

Following the surprise arrival of Rua in 2010, who moved on to Belfast Zoo, the Park is hoping to breed the species again in the future. The Red Pandas in Fota belong to the Nepalese/ Indian sub species.

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The impetus for the development of the Asia Sanctuary is to enhance the Wildlife Park to become an iconic international visitor attraction.

The concept of the development will be in line with the existing unique open nature of the Wildlife Park but will be designed to give this new development an authentic Asian ambiance.

Phase 1: Asian Forestry June 2014

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Phase 2: Asian Wetlands June 2015

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Phase 3: Asian Plains June 2016

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