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panda (Ailurus fulgens), also called lesser panda, cat bear, bear cat, or red bear cat, reddish brown, long-tailed, raccoonlike mammal, about the size of a large cat, that is found in the mountain forests of the Himalayas and adjacent areas of eastern Asia and subsists mainly on bamboo and other vegetation, fruits, and insects. Once classified as a relative of the giant panda, it is now usually classified as the sole member of the family Ailuridae.
The lesser panda has soft, thick fur—rich reddish brown above and black underneath. The face is white, with a stripe of red-brown from each eye to the corners of the mouth; and the bushy tail is faintly ringed. The head and body length of the lesser panda is 50–65 cm (20–26 inches); the tail is 30–50 cm (12–20 inches) long; and the weight ranges from 3 to 4.5 kg (6.5 to 10 pounds). The feet have hairy soles, and the claws are semiretractile.
The lesser panda lives high in the mountains among rocks and trees and climbs with agility (though its tail is not prehensile). It seems to do most of its feeding on the ground. It is nocturnal and may live alone, in pairs, or in family groups. The litters generally contain one or two young that are born in spring after a gestation period of about 130 days. The animal is gentle and easily tamed but usually resents being handled. It is a very popular zoo animal and is frequently involved in the animal trade.
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