The red panda’s diet is 98% bamboo, but the panda also consumes small mammals, birds, eggs, blossomes, leaves, bark, fruit, and berries.
Temperate ranges in red panda habitat are from 10°Celsius to 25°Celsius at elevations from 3,000 to 3,750 meters. In the Himalayan region, there is considerable vertical climatic zonation caused by differences in rainfall and temperature, with the southern area receiving up to 350 centimeters of rainfall annually and the interiors somewhat drier with 130 centimeters annually. In western China, the mountain chains of Sichuan and Yunnan have a north-south orientation that traps westerly moisture-laden winds to produce abundant rainfall and thick, deciduous and evergreen forest.
In general, all of these vegetational and climatic zones provide moist, well-drained soil suitable for bamboo growth, the dietary staple of the red panda. The genera of bamboos most likely to form the bulk of the diet are Phyllostachys, Sinarundinaria, Thamnocalamus, Chimonobambusa, and Qiongzhuea. A diet high in fiber is essential to prevent gastrointestinal disorders in red pandas; bamboo and native or cultivated grasses are preferred. The red panda’s diet is 98% bamboo.
In addition to bamboo, red pandas in the wild may eat small mammals, birds, eggs, blossoms, and berries. In captivity, animals were observed to eat birds, blossoms, Acer and Morus leaves, bark, and the fruits of Acer, Fagus, and Morus.
Sources: (Allen, 1938; Bartlett, 1900; Bush & Roberts, 1977; Glatston, Wei, Than Zaw, & Sherpa, 2015; Hodgson, 1847; Mani, 1968; Montali, Roberts, Freeman, & Bush, 1984; Numata, 1979; Roberts, 1980; Roberts & Gittleman, 1984; Schaller, 1977; Sheldon, 1937; Simpson, 1869; Sowerby, 1932; Vaurie, 1972)
Image: Mathias Appel