Indeed, these amazing and fascinating animals are cute… but if we continue to invade and destroy their natural habitat, then their cuteness will in the near future just be good for museum attractions.
The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), also known as the Lesser Panda, is a small arboreal mammal native to the cool temperate bamboo forests in China, Myanmar and Nepal. A close relative of raccoons, it is the only extant species of the family Ailuridae, with two subspecies recognized: Western Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens fulgens) and Styan’s Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens styani).
Slightly larger than a domestic cat, Red Pandas, are about 50 to 65 cm (20 to 26 in) in head-body length and about 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 in) long, bushy tail. Adults weigh about 5.4 to 9 kg (12 to 20 lbs). They have soft, dense red-and-white fur. They have a round head, pitch black eyes, black nose and medium-sized upright ears. Their long bushy tail is marked with six alternating brownish-yellow transverse rings. They have short, black legs with the paw soles covered with thick fur.
Red pandas are solitary, territorial animals. Studies have also revealed that these quiet arboreal creatures are both nocturnal and crepuscular animals. They are excellent tree climbers and specialized bamboo feeders. However, unlike the Giant Panda, they are also feeding on berries, birds, eggs, flowers, and other small mammals.
This cute animal has been listed as Endangered by IUCN. The estimated population is around 10,000 mature individuals. Though protected in all range countries, their numbers in the wild are declining due to habitat loss (deforestation) and rampant hunting and poaching. Red pandas are able to reproduce at around 18 months of age, but has a naturally low birth rate (usually single or twin births per year). Average life span in the wild: 8 years.
The American Pika (Ochotona princeps), is a small, cute member of the rabbit family found in the mountains of western North America. They are well-adapted to cold climates thus, inhabit rocky mountains and high-elevation boulder hillsides. Although American pikas live in social groups, they are territorial and will guard and defend their own territories from intruders.
These endearing mammals have an almost egg-shaped body, grayish-to-brown fur, with large, round ears. The hind feet are rather short, ranging from 25 to 35 mm (1-1½ in) long, with densely furred soles, and with no visible tail. They usually measure from 162 to 216 millimeters (6-8 inches) in body length and weigh about 170 grams (6 ounces).
American pikas feed primarily on grasses and herbs. They are often called ‘ecosystem engineers’ because of their extensive haying activities. Since foraging for food is extremely difficult to obtain in winter, they will consume some food on the spot and will carry a big portion away and stored in a pile or “haystack.” They breed in spring and produce between two and five in a litter.
As they reside in the high and cooler mountain regions, they are said to be the first victims of global warming. Rising temperatures threaten their haying activities by shortening the period available for them to gather food. Furthermore, global warming can also cause the animals to die from overheating. In 2010, the US government considered, designate the American Pika under the US Endangered Species Act.
The Kinkajou (Potos flavus), sometimes called the ‘honey bear’, (a name it shares with the sun bear), is an arboreal mammal found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. The only member of the genus Potos, Kinkajous have many features and traits resembling those of ferrets or monkeys, they are actually related to the raccoon.
These cute animals have woolly fur (an outer coat of brownish-gray overlapping a gray undercoat. Eyes are large, small ears and short legs. Adults weigh about 1.4–4.6 kg (3–10 lb), measure 40–60 cm (16–24 in) in body length; in addition the long, prehensile tail measures 40–60 cm (16–24 in).
A nocturnal and an omnivore, Kinkajous feed on flowers, fruits, nectar and at times frogs and small insects. They mate all year and give birth to a single or at times two cubs. They can live up to 20 to 25 years in captivity. Though they are not listed as an endangered species, but if rampant and uncheck hunting for their fur and meat continues, then soon they will be one. Also, they are hunted for pets.
Tree Kangaroosare macropods aptly adapted to living in trees. The majority of the 14 extant species inhabits the rainforests of New Guinea, far northeastern Queensland, and nearby islands; however, several species also occur in the lowlands, in particular the Lowlands Tree-kangaroo. These cute animals are clumsy on the ground, but are known great leapers. The Matschie tree kangaroo can leap 18 meters (60 feet) to the ground from trees without getting hurt!
Depending on the species, adult ones can weigh up to 14.5 kg and can measure from 41-77 cm head to body length; in addition to a tail length of 40 to 87 cm. Females are smaller than males. Unlike their close cousins, their arms and legs are about the same length. They also have teeth that are adapted for eating and tearing leaves. And much stronger hind feet helpful in climbing the trees they inhabit.
Tree Kangaroos are herbivore and feed mainly on leaves and fruit – at times will also feed on flowers, grains, sap, and even bark. Females give birth to a single offspring (joey) after a gestation period of about 44 days. Young stay with their mothers until they are about 18 months old. Average lifespan in captivity: Up to 20 years.
Tree Kangaroos have suffered from loss of habitat and uncontrolled hunting; and many species are considered threatened and suffered a drastic decline in numbers. The Wondiwoi Tree Kangaroo is critically endangered (possibly extinct) with as few as 50 individuals remaining.
The Long-tailed Chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera), also called the Common Chinchilla, Chilean, coastal, or lesser chinchilla, is native to Northern Chile inhabiting barren, arid areas of the Andes at elevations of 3,000 – 5,000 m. Three extant species are commonly recognized: The La Plata type, the Costina type and the Raton type.
It is about the size of a small rabbit with a broad head, large black eyes and fairly large mouse-like ears. Adults measure about 225-380 mm in head-body length and weigh about 500 – 800 g. Unusual for mammals, chinchilla females are significantly bigger than males. This cute animal has a small, slender body; strong hind legs and a bushy tail measuring up to a third the size of its body. The soft silky hair is bluish, pearl or brownish grey in color at the dorsal side and yellowish white in color on the belly. Each hair usually has a black tip, and has more than 50 hairs from a single follicle.
In their natural habitat, long-tailed chinchillas live in burrows or crevices in rocks. They are most active at dawn and dusk. Their diet consists of roots, tubers, bulbs, fruits, mosses, seeds and small insects. Females can breed any time of the year where the average litter size two. In the wild, they breed between October and December. Long-tailed chinchillas can live up to 10 years in the wild. Though known for being a popular pet, the Chilean chinchilla population is rapidly decreasing due to over-hunting for its fur. The long-tailed chinchilla is endangered only in the wild.
The Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes), or commonly called the American Polecat, is a member of the weasel family native to central North America. This cute animal requires prairie dog burrows for shelter. It is typically nocturnal and solitary, except during the mating season.
The Black-footed Ferret has a tan-colored coat, slender body and a blunt head. The forehead is arched, it has a long neck, ears are short and erect, and a short muzzle with few whiskers. The legs are short with hairy feet and the toes are armed with sharp, arched claws. Males measure 38 to 50 cm 915 to 20 in) head-body length, and a tail about 11 to 13 cm (4.25 to 5 in) long.
Black-footed Ferrets spend most of their time sleeping in underground burrows and only hunt for food at night. Its diet consists primarily of prairie dogs, but also known to hunt birds, ground squirrels, rabbits and small rodents. Mating Season starts on March-April and after a gestation period of 41-43 days litters are born. Average litter size: 3-4 kits. Lifespan: 3-4 years in the wild; 8-9 years in captivity.
It is listed as endangered by the IUCN. Primary causes of mortality include habitat loss and human-introduced diseases. Only 18 remained in 1986. These last remaining ferrets were captured and a breeding program was started in several North American zoos Today, their population numbers around 750 individuals in the wild, and another 250 living in captive breeding facilities (2008).