Red pandas exist in the shadow of giant pandas, but they were actually the first animals to be called "panda." In the past, red pandas have been classified with the bear family (which includes giant pandas) and with procyonids (a family that includes raccoons). Today, they are classified as the sole species in family Ailuridae.
Red pandas are engaging, bamboo-eating animals that resemble raccoons and share parts of their Asian habitats with giant pandas. Although not "giant," the red panda is an endangered species that also deserves scientific and conservation attention, as well as wider recognition among the public.
Red pandas have striking red coats and reddish-brown tear marks from the eyes to the corner of the mouth. They are especially vibrant during winter time: As their coats redden and thicken, they become easily visible on even the coldest January day.
At the Zoo
Two adult red pandas and two cubs, born June 17, 2011, are temporarily living in the giant panda house, giving us an opportunity to compare the original "panda" with giant pandas. Read about the cubs and see photos.