Bamboo eating acrobatic loner
The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), is a mostly herbivorous mammal, slightly larger than a domestic cat at 55cm long.
It is native to the Himalayas in Nepal and southern China.
The word panda is apparently derived from Nepalese word "ponya" which means bamboo or plant eating animal.
Red pandas have a bear-like body with thick russet fur. The belly and limbs are black and there are white markings on the side of the head and above the small eyes.
It 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 weather.
Red Pandas are very skillful and acrobatic animals that stay predominantly in trees.
They live in territories, frequently as loners, and only rarely live in pairs or in groups of families.
Red pandas use their long, bushy tails to balance when they're in trees. They also cover themselves with their tails in winter presumably for warmth - though it is said they can neither stand the warmth, becoming lethargic when temperatures get into the +25oC range.
Your chances of seeing one in the wild
The IUCN classify red pandas as Endangered, and they are on CITES: Appendix I.
WWF-India has initiated a project on the Red Panda in Sikkim, for developing an in depth understanding of the species to help develop a long-term conservation plan (more information is provided below).
The independent Red Panda Project conservation group conducts ecotrips to see Red Pandas in the wild each year.