Red pandas, one among the cutest found on earth come under endangered list. These bushy-tailed and russet-furred bamboo munchers that dwell in Asian high forests are not a single species but rather two distinct ones, says a most recent genetic study. Scientists said that they found a substantial divergence between the two species, Chinese red pandas and Himalayan red pandas with three genetic markers, in an analysis of DNA from 65 of the animals.
Chinese red pandas are found in northern Myanmar as well as southeastern Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in China, while Himalayan red pandas are native to Nepal, India, Bhutan and southern Tibet in China. International experts have estimated a total population of roughly 10,000 red pandas in the wild. The two species also differ in colouration and
“To conserve the genetic uniqueness of the two species, we should avoid their interbreeding in captivity as it may harm the genetic adaptations” researcher said.
The Himalayan red panda is the scarcer of the two and needs urgent protection because of low genetic diversity and small population size.
Slightly bigger than a domestic cat, red pandas have thick fur, a short snout and pointed ears, spending much of their life in trees and dining mostly on bamboo. Major threats to red pandas include deforestation and degradation of their habitat due to human development.
Despite similar names, red pandas and giant pandas are not closely related. Giant pandas are one of the world’s eight bear species. Red pandas, with no close living relatives, are sometimes called living fossils as the only remaining member of the Ailuridae mammalian family.