Red pandas are generally solitary and secretive creatures, most active at night. At other times, however, they usually rest up in trees, for as much as 15 hours of the day. Red pandas have very low metabolic rates, almost as low as a sloth. They are agile climbers, and even use trees to nest. Their long tails help them balance while they scale steep heights. Red pandas prefer mountainous forests, and can live at elevations up to 15,000 feet.
Red pandas spend most of their waking hours foraging for bamboo. But they do not eat just any part of the bamboo plant. These specialists will only consume the leaves and tender shoots. Like the giant pandas, red pandas have a “second thumb” that is actually a wrist bone to help grab onto bamboo.
Occasionally they also eat blossoms, bird eggs, small mammals, fruit, seeds, and berries.
Red pandas have a very short, seasonal breeding season. The female finds a tree hollow or rock crevice to make a nest, lining it with leaves and bamboo. After about 19 weeks of gestation, the mother gives birth to a litter of up to four young, covered with red fur. They look like miniature adults after only a few months. The juveniles venture out of the nest at about three months, but do not leave their mothers until one year, when they are full- grown. Red pandas reach sexual maturity at 18 months. At zoos, they live for about 10 years.