The Firecat of the Himalayas

Red panda (Ailurus fulgens), also known sometimes as firecat and lesser panda, is largely herbivorous. Slightly larger than a domestic cat, an adult red panda in the forest weighs around 4 kg. It has retractile claws and like the giant panda, it has a “false thumb” which is really an extension of the wrist bone. Thick fur on the soles offers protection from cold. The pelage is reddish – orange on the body with a long bushy tail. Their ears and areas around the eyes are white with black “tear drops” running from the eyes to the throat. These intricate white markings on the face of a red panda makes it most conspicuous. Both sexes are alike.

The red panda lives in temperate climates – in deciduous and coniferous forests, usually with an under-storey of bamboo and hollow trees. This makes them a key species of these forests and indicators of forest health. They are found in the Himalayan region, in parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Mynamar and in the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh and in southern China. Majority of the Indian population occurs in Arunachal Pradesh.

This short film, made for WWF-India, highlights the conservation issues facing the red panda in Sikkim and the interventions being undertaken by the Sikkim Forest Department and WWF-India to mitigate the threats to the species and its habitat involving local communities and other stakeholders.