Red pandas, an ancient species (or "living fossil") native to the Eastern Himalayas, were once classified as either raccoons or bears, but are now considered a distinct family of mammals, which share a common ancestor with the giant panda. The 20-25" long reddish-colored mammals have short legs and long, bushy ringed tails. They feed mostly on bamboo, but also eat eggs, insects, birds and small mammals. Due primarily to habitat loss, they are considered a vulnerable species in the wild.
Shifu was born at the Smithsonian Institution National Zoological Park’s Conservation & Research Center (now the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute) in Northern Virginia. He was transferred to Birmingham on April 22, 2010.