Red Pandas

Sequoia Park Zoo SM12-1325

The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a small, raccoon-like mammal from the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It features a bear-like face, fox-like ears, a long, lean torso encased in reddish-brown fur, and a very long, shaggy tail. Red pandas make excellent subjects for photography, as they have expressive faces and intelligent, curious eyes. They are growing in popularity, with 182 individual red pandas scattered among zoos in the United States. One of the best zoos to photograph the red panda is the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, CA. The Red Pandas dwell in a fairly substantial closure with a climbing apparatus that allows them to rise up above the walls of the enclosure. From such a vantage point it is easy to photograph them against a redwood grove in the distance. This allows for images that look as if the red pandas are being photographed in a wild habitat. If you shoot with a long lens (~300mm on an APS-C DSLR), the background blurs out beautifully:

Best time to photograph them is after they have just been fed. They will climb up to get at their precious bamboo leaves and eat away:

Notice the dirty paw in the above pic. That’s partly caused by the fact that red pandas have furry on their paws, instead of pads like many other mammals (such as dogs, for instance).

The Sequoia Park Zoo features two red pandas, who happen to be brothers. These critters tend to be solitary and keep to themselves, so there’s very little interaction between the two siblings. It’s rare when you can get them in the same shot, as they are usually in different parts of their enclosure and rarely come within even a few feet of each other. But at feeding time sometimes they’ll be attacking the same food source, as in the following image:

They are curious critters who love to climb and explore:

Could they be made into pets? There are rumors on the internet of attempts to breed a domesticated version of this animal. But with their long claws and mischievous temperaments, I’m not sure you’d want one of these critters in your house, scratching up the furniture and climbing on the drapes.