The 'other' panda. 

Although it shares the same name, the red panda is not related to the giant panda. In fact, the red panda is not related to any other animal, making it completely unique.

So what makes them so unique? Red panda have a gap in their teeth which allows them to strip bamboo leaves easily – pretty helpful when in the wild 95% of their diet is bamboo!

Even though red panda mostly eat bamboo, they are classed as a carnivore! How? If you thought a carnivore was an animal that normally eats meat, you’re right. But the classification has a little to do with their digestive track. A red panda’s tummy is designed to eat meat! They obviously didn’t get the memo! As their tummy cannot digest the cellulose in bamboo, in the wild, red panda have to eat 20-30% of their body weight in bamboo every day! That means they have to spend 10 -12 hours a day eating!

Although the red panda may not be designed to eat bamboo, they do have some special adaptations to survive in their natural habitat. The soles of their feet are furry – like build in snow boots – to stop their feet getting cold! The fur also helps give them grip when walking on slippery branches.

Speaking of keeping warm, red panda have double thick, fuzzy hair – talk about the best winter coat! It is in the best colour too. The red colour helps with camouflage as it is the same colour as the moss covered trees they live in. Their long tail, which is nearly the same length as their body, helps with balance but also can be used like a blanket over their face when sleeping to keep them warm.

At the Zoo

Meet our red panda whānau!

  1. Ramesh was born at Auckland Zoo in January 2015.
  2. Khela was born at Hamilton Zoo and came to Auckland Zoo to be introduced to Ramesh in 2017
  3. Tashi is Ramesh and Khela’s first son born in December 2018.
  4. Dalha is the latest edition to the family. Born to Ramesh and Khela in December 2019.

In the wild, red panda mostly eat bamboo. At Auckland Zoo, the keepers feed them a range of food to help keep a nutritionally balanced diet. This includes pears, grapes, bamboo and specially formulated red panda pellet mix. The variety of their diet reduces the stress for red pandas to forage for food for up to 12 hours like they would in the wild.

At home up high

Red Panda love to spend time high up in trees. Their habitat at Auckland Zoo provides plenty of climbing opportunities. So make sure you take the time to look up in the branches.

Even though the keepers supply a nutritionally balanced diet, bamboo is also provided to encourage natural foraging behavior.

Cooling misters are provided in the summer time to help keep the red panda nice and cool.

What’s up doc?

Like all the animals at Auckland Zoo, the red panda have regular vet checks. The keepers do regular training with the red panda to go into transport crates. This makes visiting the vet a lot less stressful for everyone! Keepers also train the red panda to stand on scales. Weighing the red panda once a week is part of the way we can monitor their health. It also allows keepers to get up close to the red panda to visually check them as well. When training the red panda, keepers use a food reward.

In the Wild

Origin: China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar

Habitat:Temperate forests and foothills of Himalayas. Even the foothills are high in the mountains, usually between 2200m-4800m above sea level. If you can’t imagine how high that is, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain is 3,724m. Or imagine 10 Sky Towers on top of each other!

Conservation status: Endangered


Red panda spotting

If you're looking for our red pandas, be sure to check the tops of the trees!

How we're helping

The Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund supports the Red Panda Network which is working to save the red panda in the wild and preserve habitat through education and empowering local communities. As part of this programme, the Forest Guardians monitor red panda, maintain and restore their habitat, educate locals on the importance of red panda conservation, and report poaching activity to local enforcement agencies. Their anti-poaching efforts alone have helped to decrease traps and snares in Eastern Nepal by 60% since 2015. They are also replanting areas with red panda friendly trees. This gives red panda more space and more food to eat.

Breeding programme

Auckland Zoo is part of a global network of zoos participating in a red panda breeding programme. This programme encourages genetic diversity of red panda throughout zoos worldwide. It ensures that red panda are not taken from the wild and also ensures a ‘safe’ population of red panda if the wild population continues to decline. 

How you can help

You can visit the zoo! A portion of the cost of this goes towards the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund so we can continue to support the Red Panda Network and the important work they do protect red panda in the wild.

You can also donate directly to our Conservation Fund here. 

Red panda stories