Panda Updates – Monday, January 7
Did you know that red pandas were actually discovered by scientists before giant pandas? Due to their similar bamboo diets and pseudothumbs, many also believed that red pandas and giant pandas were closely related. Red pandas, however, are the only living members of the family Ailuridae. Their taxonomic classification has been a topic of debate for many years, and they were originally grouped in with members of the raccoon family due to their similar appearances and head structure. Further look at their DNA then caused them to be assigned to the bear family, Ursidae. The most recent genetic research places them into their own family that I mentioned before (Ailuridae) and they are recognized as an ancient species of the order Carnivora. They are most likely closely related to weasels, raccoons and skunks. Two subspecies of red panda are recognized (Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens refulgens), which is why red pandas you see at other facilities may look different in coloration than Idgie.
Keeper II, Mammals
(photo by Danica W.)