Lesser Panda


The lesser panda is famous for its cute appearance, such as Shimashima’s tail, white hair like eyebrows, and Manmaru’s eyes.
Such lesser pandas are one of the most popular and fan-filled animals in zoos.
However, if you think about the ecology of the lesser panda and what its characteristics are, you may be surprised to find that there are many things you may not know.
Let’s take a sneak peek at what features and secrets the lesser panda has!



~ Basic information. ~

Mammalia Carnivora-Ailuridae-Lesser panda genus.


Lesser pandas live in forests at slightly higher altitudes (about 1500-4000 meters above sea level) in Bhutan, China, Myanmar, India, Nepal, etc.The maximum temperature in the lesser panda habitat in summer is about 25 degrees Celsius, but in winter it is very cold and the whole area is covered with snow.


Lesser pandas basically live alone, rubbing their odor glands on their hips against trees, rocks, and the ground to mark them and show off their territory.Males are particularly territorial and make more markings.At zoos, Lesser pandas sometimes rub their hips on various things, but it doesn’t mean that their hips are itchy.

Wild lesser pandas feed on bamboo leaves, bamboo shoots, acorns, fruits, eggs of small animals and birds, insects, and many other things.Lesser pandas are classified as carnivores, a group of animals that catch and eat their prey, but it is said that 80-90% of their food is actually bamboo leaves.



Lesser panda’sQ&A.

What is the origin of the name lesser panda?

The word “panda” means “bamboo eater” in Nepali.

When the lesser panda was first discovered, it was simply called a “panda”.Later, however, a new animal called the “giant panda” was discovered, and the small lesser panda was called the “lesser panda” with the word “lesser” added to the beginning of its name to distinguish it from the giant panda.
※The word “lesser” means “less than”.

The lesser panda was once thought to be an animal similar to the giant panda, but is now classified as an independent species called the “Ailuridae”.Giant pandas are considered to be more like bears than lesser pandas, and are classified as “bear family” and “giant panda genus”.


Is it true that lesser pandas are good at climbing trees?

It’s true.

Lesser pandas are very good tree climbers and spend most of their days in the wild on trees.

The lesser panda has very sharp claws, which is hard to imagine from its cute face, so it can climb trees easily.In addition, wild lesser pandas often sleep in trees because they are less likely to be targeted by natural enemies when they are in trees.


Why do lesser pandas have black bellies?

The face and back of the lesser panda are reddish brown, but the stomach side is completely black.So why is the belly of the lesser panda black?

Is it true that lesser pandas are good at climbing trees?, As I explained in the question Wild lesser pandas spend most of their day in trees.In fact, when you look up at the lesser panda on the tree from the ground, it is not noticeable at all because of the black belly, which is overshadowed by the tree and the color of the branches.Yes, in fact, the color of the lesser panda’s belly is a protective color, making it harder for its natural predators to find it.


Why do lesser pandas have long tails? Why the striped pattern?

The tail of a lesser panda is very long and is said to be about 28 to 40 cm long.
This long tail helps her balance on the tree, and when it’s cold, she sometimes wraps it around her body like a scarf or blanket to keep her warm.

And the reason why the tail of the lesser panda has a striped pattern is still unclear.It is thought that it is probably a protective color, just like the color of the stomach.Incidentally, in addition to lesser pandas, other animals with striped tails include zebras and ring-tailed lemurs.


Are lesser pandas cold tolerant?

The lesser pandas live in a very cold place where the whole area is covered with snow in the winter. As a result, they are covered with soft and fluffy fur to the soles of their feet, making them very resistant to the cold and moving around energetically even in the snow.

On the other hand, they are sensitive to heat, especially the damp heat of summer in Japan.For this reason, Japanese zoos try to lower the temperature in the summer by installing air conditioners in the lesser panda’s rooms and misters in the playground.


How can a lesser panda grab things?

The lesser panda is an animal that can grab things with its paws and eat them while holding them well.However, in fact, animals that can grab things are rare, and the behavior of grabbing and eating things is known only to a few animals, such as monkey friends and wallabies, in addition to lesser pandas.

In addition to the five fingers on the front legs of the lesser panda, there is a projection called a “seed bone” on the wrist, also known as the sixth finger.The lesser panda holds objects between its five fingers and the seed bone and grasps them well.


Is it true that lesser panda intimidation is cute?

It’s true.
When the lesser panda intimidates, it stands up with its hind legs and poses with its front legs lifted high. This pose is thought to have the meaning of making the body look bigger and stronger.

However, even if the lesser panda tries his best to intimidate us, from our point of view, it looks cute and plush, which is kind of sad.

Why do lesser pandas stand up?

In Chiba City Zoological Park in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, there is a lesser panda called “Futa-kun”.
Futa-kun is a male red panda that is famous for causing the lesser panda boom in Japan around 2005 as a “standing lesser panda”.

However, for lesser pandas, standing is nothing special. All lesser pandas stand up on their hind legs when they want to feed, look around, or intimidate.

In fact, there are three patterns of animal walking. The first is to walk with the soles of your feet on the ground like monkeys, bears, and humans, the second is to walk with only your fingertips like dogs and cats, and the third is to walk with only your toes like cows and horses.

And like us humans, lesser pandas walk with their entire soles on the ground, so they can stand stably on two legs.It’s kind of interesting to think that lesser pandas and humans walk in the same way.


What do the lesser pandas at the zoo eat?

Lesser pandas, which live in zoos, eat bamboo leaves as their staple food, pellets, fruits, boiled sweet potatoes and carrots. Among them, many lesser pandas like apples, and apples are also used as a reward for training.

By the way, the lesser panda eats only bamboo leaves, not the hard parts of bamboo branches and tree trunks.For this reason, the zoo sometimes washes bamboo that the lesser pandas did not eat and uses it as a snack for elephants and capybaras. Elephants and capybaras also love bamboo and will happily eat the hard part of the bamboo that the lesser panda won’t eat.


Can a lesser panda be kept as a pet?

I saw a cute lesser panda at the zoo and wanted to keep it at home! I’m sure some of you have thought about it. Now let’s think about whether lesser pandas can be kept as pets like dogs and cats.

It’s a little difficult to explain, but the lesser panda is listed as an “endangered species” on the Red List.It is also classified as an “Appendix I” animal under the Washington Convention.Animals classified into these two categories are strictly restricted from being traded between countries, and cannot be traded unless there is a special purpose such as research.Therefore, basically, you cannot sell or buy a lesser panda to keep it as a pet.

Also, since lesser pandas are mainly fed by bamboo leaves, it is necessary to prepare a lot of fresh bamboo every day if you want to keep them as pets.It is very difficult to keep bamboo ready and to clean up the remaining bamboo, so in that sense, lesser pandas are not suitable for pets.


Is there an animal that resembles a lesser panda?

One animal that is similar to the lesser panda is the raccoon, which is famous for its “raccoon rascal” anime produced in Japan.

In fact, many people look at raccoons and think they are red pandas, while others look at red pandas and think they are raccoons. So what do you need to look for to distinguish between a lesser panda and a raccoon?

First, let’s focus on the color of your body.
The lesser panda is generally reddish brown with a black belly, and its tail is brown and light brown. The raccoon, on the other hand, is gray overall and has a gray belly, and its tail is black and white.

Next, let’s focus on the face.
Lesser pandas have white hair like eyebrows above their eyes, and the area around their nose and cheeks is also pure white. Raccoons, on the other hand, have black under their eyes and a raccoon-like pattern. It’s easy to see the difference when you compare them with a close-up photo of their faces.

What enemies do the lesser pandas have?

The natural enemies of wild lesser pandas are carnivores such as snow leopards, martens, and hawks.

However, in fact, it is said that we humans are the biggest natural enemies of lesser pandas.Lesser pandas are losing their habitat due to deforestation and land development, and are being poached for sale as pets and fur, reducing their population year by year.

It is thought that there are only 2,500 to 10,000 wild lesser pandas, and it is said that wild red pandas may become extinct in a few decades.

Lesser pandas are bred in zoos all over the world, but in fact, Japan is said to be the country with the largest number of lesser pandas in the world.By the way, there are two subspecies of lesser panda, “styan’s lesser panda” and “western lesser Panda”, but most of the species bred in Japan are “styan’s lesser panda”.




Type of lesser panda.

・Styan’s Lesser Panda
・Western Lesser Panda


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