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There are fewer than 10,000 red pandas left in the wild, and researchers believe that the total population of has declined by 50% over the past two decades.

red panda, Darjeeling, India

Image Credit: flowcomm from Flickr

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), almost 50% of the red panda's habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas. Although the animal is adapted to survive within its environment - its red fur provides a camouflage where branches are covered with clumps of reddish-brown moss and white lichens - these habitats are disappearing. 

Why are their numbers depleting?

The main causes for the decrease in population of the red panda is poaching and loss of habitat. According to the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute: "Part of the difficulty in conserving red pandas relates to their unique habitat. These animals require a specific set of circumstances to optimize survival, including proximity to water sources, appropriate forest cover and altitude, and sufficient bamboo." 

Another problem red pandas are facing is climate change. The animal usually lives in a habitat between ten and 25 degrees celsius. As temperatures rise, the animals are having to travel into higher altitudes to keep cool.

Red Panda at the Central Zoo, NY

Image Credit: Kelvin Blasko from Wikimedia Commons

As with many species living in forested areas, their habitats are depleting due to such activities as logging, livestock, human population and deforestation.

It is estimated that around 7,000 red pandas die every year due to deforestation.

What is being done?

As with many events of habitat depletion, it is important to make populations aware of their impact on the surrounding landscape. 

In Nepal, any person found guilty of killing, buying or selling red pandas faces a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to ten years in jail

Charities like WWF are helping to provide alternative means of income to communities that do not damage the red panda population.

Lead image credit: flowcomm from Flickr

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