The red panda is a small, tree-dwelling mammal native to the high-altitude forests of Nepal and adjacent areas of China, India, and Myanmar. This original panda, formally described by biologists decades before the giant panda (no big deal), lives almost entirely on bamboo, supplemented with fruits, mushrooms, eggs, and the occasional bird—and are the only non-primate that can taste the artificial sweetener aspartame. Solitary in the wild but playful in a well-tended captive environment, this brightly colored and beautiful animal is a charismatic ambassador for the varied and fascinating biospheres in the Himalayas.

But, poaching, climate change, human encroachment on their habitat, and inbreeding depression all threaten the red panda, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently downgraded their status from “vulnerable” to “endangered.” Though they are technically protected in each country of their native range, it’s possible that 2500 or fewer red pandas still live in the wild. (Source: Red Panda Network)

Featured Image via Flickr

Read More: 9 Amazing Facts About the Red Panda

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