What does the Firefox say? New study about vocal communication

A Red Panda gets surprised by a zookeeper, flies backwards to the ground and – screams, squeals, squawks – or how would you describe this sound?

This video from a Japanese zoo is one of the most famous videos about Red Pandas. It not only shows a very frightful Red Panda, also the soundtrack of this clip is remarkable.


Young and loud 

There isn’t much knowledge about the vocal communication of Red Pandas. Adult animals are mostly quiet. You can hear their calls only during the mating season. According to Dr. Axel Gebauer (2010, 183) Red Panda cubs have a higher calling activity, especially when the mother refuses them from nursing.

In 1984 the American Society of Mammalogists said “the vocal repertoire of the red panda is small but there is considerable variability within certain types”. Miles S. Roberts and John L. Gittleman mentioned the “wheet” of Red Panda infants and a high-pitched, modulated-frequency “twitter” as a contact call in young and adults.

Seven vocal signals

A team of Chinese scientists based on two research stations in Sichuan has analyzed the vocal variety of Red Pandas in captivity for the first time. In their study “Vocal repertoire of adult captive red pandas (Ailurus fulgens)” they have identified a total of seven different vocalization types.

Video 1: growl

You can listen to several sound types in this clip but you can clearly hear the growl.

Video 2: bark

This one is somewhat more difficult. Again a mix of different vocal signs.

Video 3: squeal

The squeal is clearly to hear.

Video 4: bleat

Bleats uttered by a male Red Panda after scent marking

Video 5: hoot

A female Red Panda hoots when she saw that an aggressive individual came close to her.

Video 6: grunt

Grunts uttered by a female when she was threatened.

Video 7: twitter 

Sounds similar to a “bleat”.

Credit Video 1-7: Cao, Dandan; Zhou, Hong; Wei, Wei; Lei, Miaowen; Yuan, Shibin; Qi, Dunwu; Zhang, Zejun (2016): Vocal repertoire of adult captive red pandas (Ailurus fulgens). figshare.
Retrieved: 06 34, Aug 05, 2016 (GMT) – CC BY: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Read more

The study Vocal repertoire of adult captive red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) von Dandan Cao¹, Hong Zhou¹, Wei Wei¹, Miaowen Lei¹, Shibin Yuan¹, Dunwu Qi² and Zejun Zhang¹ is published in „Animal Biology“ (Volume 66, Issue 2). An excerpt and more videos are available here.

¹Giant Panda Conservation and Culture Research Center, China West Normal University,
Shida Road 1#, Nanchong 637009, China

²Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Panda Road 1375#, Chengdu 610081,


Photo: kytka / Pixabay