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Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)

Courtship

  • Chirping/twittering vocalization by males and females
  • Heavy scent marking by female in her territory; male then marks over her mark (Gebauer 2011)
  • Interactions between male and female increase 24 hours prior to copulation
  • Courtship continues several hours
  • Polygynous (promiscuous) mating; males compete for access

Reproduction

  • Red pandas in the wild are solitary except during the breeding season when they are found in small groups
  • In managed care, maintain discrete distances from one another except at feeding time and during mating season
  • Female estrus occurs in winter when photoperiod begins to increase
    • Northern hemisphere managed populations: January - March
    • Southern hemisphere managed populations: June - August
  • Females become lethargic ~6 weeks before giving birth
  • Nest building:
    • Begins several days before birth
    • In the wild, female makes nest in tree hollows or rock crevices lined with plant material (Hodgson 1847)
    • Nest box adopted by females in managed care

Gestation and Birth

Gestation

  • Average 135 days (Roberts & Gittleman 1984)
  • Wide variation (112 - 158 days) suggests delayed implantation

Birth

  • Litter size: usually 2 cubs, although can be 1 - 4
    • Sex ratio is equal 
  • Occurs in early summmer months
    • Northern hemisphere managed populations: June - August
    • Southern hemisphere managed populations: December - February
  • Occurs between late afternoon to morning (4 pm - 9 am)
  • Mother remains with young 60% - 90% of time during first days
    • Mother stimulates urination and defecation by licking anogenital region of cub ("allogrooming")
    • She consumes all waste products until cubs are weaned to keep the nest clean
    • Cubs are transported by mouth (common carnivore behavior)
    • Cubs are taken to "preferred places" in the den at irregular intervals (1-8 times/day)
    • Nursing bouts last ~17 minutes
    • During first few weeks after birth, mother may move cubs several times to new nests (Roberts & Gittleman 1984); this may be due to stress and an "artifact" of managed care
  • Neonate development
    • Weigh 110 g - 130 g at birth
    • Grow 7g - 20g a day
    • Skin is pink; no fur on surface of feet
    • Covered with wooly gray hair; long, reddish guard hairs appear by day 14
    • Eyes and ear closed at birth; open by day 18

Life Stages

Infant – Juvenile (< 1 year)      

  • Adult coloration seen around day 50
  • Begin to chew on bamboo twigs brought to the nest at 50 - 60 days; may also eat bamboo leaves chewed by mother
  • Out-of-den nursing begins after ~70 days
  • Solid food is not regularly eaten until ~90 days
  • Weaned between 13 and 22 weeks
  • Independence
    • ~ 8 months (32 weeks)
    • Mother and cubs remain close until next breeding
  • Gebauer (2011) prepared an ethogram of cub social play

Adult (1.5 years)

  •  Reach sexual maturity between 18 - 20 months for both males and females

Longevity

In managed care

  • Average ~9 years in managed care (Philippa & Ramsay 2011)
  • Longevity record: male at Rotterdam Zoo died at 21 years, 7 months

Information in this Section

Most information in this section comes from a 6-year National Zoo study (Roberts & Kessler, 1979).

Altered managed care environments and artificial mate selection may affect innate behavior.

Red Panda Cubs

Two young Red Pandas at the San Diego Zoo

Young red pandas at the San Diego Zoo.

Red Panda cubs

Red panda cubs are born without fur—reddish guard hairs begin to grow at about two weeks old.

Image credits: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Gebauer (2011)
Hodgson (1847)
Philippa & Ramsay (2011)
Roberts & Gittleman (1984)
Roberts & Kessler (1979)

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