ZSI: India Home to Both Species of Red Panda

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has recently published many scientific publications that have resolved the mystery on the speciation in red panda (Ailurus fulgens) and its demography. Red Panda is one of the most important species in terms of global conservation.

Key Points

  • ZSI Scientists have concluded that India is home to both the (sub) species of Red Panda.
  • These species of the red panda are — the Chinese red panda (Ailurus styani) and the Himalayan red panda (Ailurus fulgens).
  • Arunachal Pradesh’s Siang River divides red panda into these two phylogenetic species.
  • Till 2020, the red panda was considered a monotypic species i.e. having only one species.  But in 2020, the study of its genetic make-up with respect to the geographical distribution by the scientists described the occurrence of the two species.

Genetic evidence

  • This study that gives the genetic evidence and describes the Siang river as a split between the two phylogenetic species of the red panda was published in the German Society of Mammalian Biology.
  • For the study, ZSI scientists carried out field sampling in the eastern Himalayas for 3 years and collected more than 250 faecal samples of the red panda. The analysis then pointed out the clustering of all the samples in two major groups.
  • Group 1 included the Himalayan red panda formed by the samples originated from Sikkim, North West Bengal, South Tibet, and central and western Arunachal Pradesh. All these are located in the west of the Siang River.
  • Group 2 included the Chinese red panda with samples from the Dibang valley of eastern Arunachal Pradesh and southwest China, in the east of the Siang.

Geological and Pleistocene glaciations

One more publication titled “Geological and Pleistocene glaciations” described the disjunct distribution and demography of the red panda (A fulgens) in the eastern Himalayas.


Conservation of this ecologically sensitive species, Red panda is also very important and efforts are required from both national and international stakeholders.