The Global Red Panda population has declined by 50% over the last 20 years, meaning there may be as few as 2,500 remaining in the wild. Red Panda reside naturally in the Himalayas, rapid human population growth and increases in farming have resulted in large scale deforestation and habitat degradation, fragmenting the areas in which the red panda can live. In turn this reduces natural food sources and breeding opportunities, threatening species survival. Like many other species, Red Pandas are poached for their pelts and furs and for body parts which are believed to hold medicinal properties. A rise in demand to keep as pets or attractions has resulted in capture by wildlife traffickers for the illegal pet trade.
Red Panda Network is committed to the conservation of Wild Red Pandas and their habitats through education, forest protection & restoration, sustainable livelihood improvement and the empowerment of local communities. Country-specific programs are developed, implemented and managed in local communities, becoming self-sustaining over time.
The work of Red Panda Network including radio broadcasts, awareness workshops, signage and poster distribution has reached more than 100,000 people living in the Red Panda Habitat Ranges with 5,000 Students in Eastern Nepal now celebrating International Red Panda Day each year, increasing the profile of the Red Panda.
Forest degradation and fragmentation are major threats. Red Panda Network Conservation Programs cover over 50% of Nepal’s Red Panda population and protect just under 1,000,000 acres of forest. Work to date has restored 1,800 acres of degraded forest, rebuilding habitats and regenerating food sources. Nursery Guardians Programs have planted 18,000 native bamboo seedlings (natural Red Panda food), and established 10 forest nurseries, producing almost 100,000 saplings. Nurseries create jobs, providing local income and provide non-timber forest products for the local communities, improving sustainability and reducing reliance on timber.
150 locals have been trained in anti-poaching investigation, 309km of Red Panda habitat is patrolled, resulting in a 65% reduction in snares. 1000 Nepalese families are directly supported by the existence and occurrence of the Red Panda, over 150 families benefit economocially from eco-tourism and over 250 local people are trained in organic farming techniques.
The management of free-roaming dogs, including feral, hunting and herding dogs which a major threat to Nepal’s Red Pandas, through attacks and spread of rabies and other canine viruses such as distemper. RPN has lead a neutering and vaccination program for free-roaming dogs in association with the District Livestock Service Centre of Ilam and Taplejung.
Red Panda Network are working on the ground with local communities, providing alternative food sources to reduce the need for forest grazing which affects Panda habitats, and encouraging the adoption of more sustainable practices, educating herders on modern methods, improved sanitation, and improved management and disposal of waste. Red Panda forests are the source of timber for livestock herding stations, resulting in a major cause of the habitat loss and degradation in Eastern Nepal, Red panda Network has designed a portable canvas tents to reduce the dependency on timber.
Red Panda Network trains local families in the extraction of fibre from the abundant Himalayan Nettle, the fibre can be woven to produce goods for sale, creating new income streams and potential opportunities which are not dependent on forest products, conserving the Panda habitat.
In Dobate, a small village on the Nepali-India border, Red Panda Network aided resident families to switch to metal cookstoves in favour of the traditional cookstoves made from wood and stoves. The metal cookstoves produce less smoke immediately benefiting the health of the Dobate villagers, have reduced cooking times, include a water boiling system reducing the need for firewood to boil water, have improved fuel efficiency and reduced the firewood required from 33kg a day to 15kg – conserving the Panda forests. The stoves can also use bio-briquettes, Red Panda Network educated and trains rural communities in the technicalities of converting dry biomass into a powder that can then produce these briquettes, providing a more efficient, less polluting fuel with no reliance on timber, and also an income source as they can be sold in local markets. Local families are also supported by the selling of handicrafts via RPN outlets and wholesale links and Red Panda Networks ecotrips have supported local community-based conservation to the sum of $180,000 to experience conservation in action on the ground.
A sturdy and effective Anti-poaching network is in place lead by the Forest Guardians. In 2018 Cumbria Zoo sponsored Forest Guardian Bishal Gurung.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Bishal became a Guardian after sadly losing both his father and mother and becoming responsible for the care of his sisters. As a Forest Guardian Bishal has learnt Red Panda monitoring and tracking, anti-poaching investigation, camera trap installation and carbon measurement skills. Bishal educates fellow community members on the importance of Red Pandas to the Himalayan ecosystem and is instrumental in the success of community conservation programs in Ilam where he educates school children about red pandas, patrols forests for traps, snares and signs of poachers, and restores degraded water sources within red panda habitat.
About the Forest Guardians
Red Panda Network develops conservation programmes in conjunction with local communities, the programmes support the communities by providing employment and ultimately an income. This approach ensures local communities are bought into the preservation of the environment and view the forests inhabited by the Red Panda as a resource to be maintained, rather than a disposable commodity.
Project Punde Kundo launched in 2007, was created by Red Panda Network, as the World’s First Community-based Monitoring Program of Red Pandas and their habitats, training 150 local community members in red panda survey and monitoring techniques. The program trains and employs people from local communities as “Forest Guardians” to monitor Red Panda populations and habitats throughout the year, reporting population information to biologists and fieldstaff, providing data to support the implementation of conservation programmes and aid in the evaluation of programme effectiveness. As a result of the community-based approach, the value of the forest as a long-term sustainable benefit which should be protected, rather than a source of immediate income, is seen by the community. Forest Guardians conduct anti-poaching investigations including habitat patrols, trap and snare removal and reporting poaching activity. As a result, traps and snares have reduced by 60% in the PIT corridor (the connection between protected areas in India and Nepal) since 2015.
Forest Guardians deliver educational services and workshops for communities living in Red Panda habitats, communities which would usually have very few educational opportunities. Forest Guardians are trained in the importance of the Red Panda to the ecosystems, it is not unusual for workshop attendees to be hired as Forest Guardians, further enforcing the Panda as a benefit to the communities. Education encompasses collaboration with schools located in the vital PIT corridor, Red Panda conservation is integrated into the curriculum and teachers are trained how to prepare and teach Red Panda conservation lessons, children are supported and encouraged to publish red panda bulletins and information within their schools. The establishment of Roots and Shoots groups, made up of 3,000 school children from 29 schools within Red Panda ranges, has provided the opportunity for students to take ecotrips to learn more about the Red Panda. C
In 2016, Red Panda Network conducted Nepal’s first National Red Panda Population and Habitat Survey covering 35 districts, confirming the presence of Red Panda populations in 23 districts and 7 protected areas. The survey also assessed and provided data and information n habitat quality, degradation and deforestation and climate change in Panda ranges.
Financial Commitment: We have already exceeded our initial target for sponsorship of Bishal. Our plan is to both renew Bishal’s sponsorship this year aswell as sponsoring an additional guardian.
£2.11 funds a Red Panda Forest Guardian for one day
£14.77 funds a Red Panda Forest Guardian for one week
£63.30 funds a Red Panda Forest Guardian for one month