STANDARDS

CCSS: 7.EE.B.3, MP1, MP2, MP4

TEKS: 7.10A

Out on a Limb

Biologists raise endangered red pandas to learn how to help save them in the wild

Duncan Usher/Minden Pictures

Jim Mcmahon/Mapman

High up in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains live some of the world’s most elusive creatures: red pandas. These cat-sized mammals are also endangered, with fewer than 10,000 left in the wild.

Red pandas have fiery fur and big, bushy tails. They live mostly in trees, where their color helps them hide from predators—and from scientists. “That has limited our ability to observe them in the wild,” says biologist Elizabeth Freeman.

Freeman works at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia. Scientists there breed red pandas and help raise their young. They hope what they learn about red pandas will help save the species.

Red pandas are some of the world’s most elusive creatures. They live in remote parts of the Himalayan mountains. They’re only about the size of a house cat. These small mammals are also endangered. Fewer than 10,000 are left in the wild.

Red pandas have rust-colored fur and big, bushy tails. They live mostly in trees. Their color helps them hide from predators. But it also conceals them from scientists. “That has limited our ability to observe them in the wild,” says Elizabeth Freeman. She’s a biologist who studies red pandas.

Freeman works at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia. Scientists there breed red pandas and help raise their cubs. They hope to save wild red pandas by learning more about the species.

In winter, keepers pair up male and female red pandas. About four months later, pregnant mothers give birth to offspring. In 2017, females named Nutmeg and Moonlight both had litters, for a total of three tiny new cubs.

Red pandas are vulnerable during their first year of life. Animal keeper Jessica Kordell gives the cubs regular health checkups. If a mother dies or can’t nurse her babies, staff at the center have to raise them by hand (see Raising Cubs).

In winter, keepers pair up male and female red pandas. About four months later, pregnant mothers give birth. In 2017, females named Nutmeg and Moonlight both had babies. A total of three tiny new cubs were born.

Red pandas are fragile during their first year of life. Animal keeper Jessica Kordell gives the cubs regular health checkups. Sometimes a red panda mother dies or can’t nurse her babies. When that happens, staff at the center raise the cubs by hand (see Raising Cubs).

As the pandas grow, the team observes them. The scientists use cameras to peek at mothers snuggling with cubs in their dens. They also study the pandas’ droppings. Chemicals in the droppings can indicate if an animal is stressed or sick.

This research will give scientists a clearer picture of how to help red pandas in the wild. For instance, if scientists learn that loud noises stress out red panda mothers, people could work to limit human activity in the forest at the times of year when red pandas reproduce.

Kordell hopes that the more people learn about red pandas, the harder they will work to protect them. “We don’t want to lose this species,” she says. 

As the pandas grow, the team keeps an eye on them. The scientists use cameras to watch mothers and cubs snuggling in their dens. They also study the pandas’ droppings. Substances in the droppings can tell scientists if an animal is stressed or sick.   

This research will help scientists learn how to protect red pandas in the wild. For instance, scientists could learn that loud noises stress out red panda mothers. Then people could work to limit loud activities, like logging, at the times of year when red pandas reproduce.

Kordell wants people to learn more about red pandas. She hopes that will inspire them to protect the animals. “We don’t want to lose this species,” she says.

Write and evaluate expressions with percents to answer questions about raising red panda cubs. Round all answers to the nearest whole number. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Write and evaluate expressions with percents to answer questions about raising red panda cubs. Round all answers to the nearest whole number. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

A. A newborn red panda weighs 100 grams. A healthy cub gains about 7% of its newborn weight per day. Write an expression to represent how much you would expect a cub to weigh d days after it’s born.

A. A newborn red panda weighs 100 grams. A healthy cub gains about 7% of its newborn weight per day. Write an expression to represent how much you would expect a cub to weigh d days after it’s born.

B. How much should the cub weigh after 14 days?

B. How much should the cub weigh after 14 days?

A. Keepers feed 3-week-old red panda cubs powdered puppy formula mixed with water. They use 18% powder and 82% water. A keeper mixes a total of 195 grams of formula that she will split into b bottles. Write an expression to represent how many grams of powder will be in each bottle.

A. Keepers feed 3-week-old red panda cubs powdered puppy formula mixed with water. They use 18% powder and 82% water. A keeper mixes a total of 195 grams of formula that she will split into b bottles. Write an expression to represent how many grams of powder will be in each bottle.

B. The keeper splits the mix into 3 bottles. How much powder will be in each one?

B. The keeper splits the mix into 3 bottles. How much powder will be in each one?

A. When red panda cubs are 1 month old, keepers feed them 25% of their body weight each day. Write an expression that represents how many grams of food a cub weighing c grams eats in a day.

A. When red panda cubs are 1 month old, keepers feed them 25% of their body weight each day. Write an expression that represents how many grams of food a cub weighing c grams eats in a day.

B. How many grams of food is a cub weighing 310 grams fed in 1 week?

B. How many grams of food is a cub weighing 310 grams fed in 1 week?

By 6 months, cubs can eat their adult diet of bamboo and fiber biscuits. An adult red panda might eat 1,100 grams of food per day made up of 23% biscuits, 73% bamboo, and the rest in fruit. Write and evaluate an expression to calculate how many grams of fruit an adult red panda eats in 3 weeks.

By 6 months, cubs can eat their adult diet of bamboo and fiber biscuits. An adult red panda might eat 1,100 grams of food per day made up of 23% biscuits, 73% bamboo, and the rest in fruit. Write and evaluate an expression to calculate how many grams of fruit an adult red panda eats in 3 weeks.

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