Four arrested in possession of red panda hides

  • Unfounded belief that the skin fetches high prices leads to increased poaching of the animal

Kathmandu, January 21

The Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police today arrested four persons in possession of two red panda hides from Budhanilkanta.

The suspects nabbed by CIB are Binod Kumar Rana, 32, of Makwanpur, Harka Bahadur Ale, 45, of Syangja, Raj Kumar Tamang, 35, of Nuwakot and Dhyan Bahadur Rai, 43, of Bhojpur. They were searching for prospective clients when undercover cops foiled their attempt to trade in the body parts of endangered wild animal.

On January 7, police apprehended the four persons with a red panda hides from Tokha. Police have arrested at least 13 persons with as many as seven red panda skins so far this fiscal.

Superintendent of Police Jeevan Shrestha, CIB spokesperson, said, “Though the skin and other parts of red panda are of no use, poachers have been attracted to its poaching in high mountains and smuggling the parts to the cities, including Kathmandu Valley, due to rumours about their high monetary value.”

Anyone involved in poaching and trading in conserved species is liable to up to a 15-year jail term and a fine not exceeding one million rupees or both as per the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973.

Red panda, called ‘habre’ in Nepali, is an endangered animal whereas trade and smuggling of its body parts is illegal under the prevailing laws, as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Convention, 1975). Police said red panda hides and body parts are usually smuggled to China and Myanmar for their supposed medicinal qualities and aesthetic use.

Metropolitan Police Office confiscated as many as 70 units of red panda hide, while District Forest Office, Kathmandu, brought to book 180 poachers and wildlife criminals in the Valley in the past four fiscals. The concerned district Forest office is the only authorised agency to prosecute wildlife poachers and smugglers under the existing laws. Any suspect arrested by police in connection with wildlife crimes is handed over to the DFO.

According to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal is home to around two per cent of the global population of red panda.

Their numbers are dwindling due to all-pervasive human pressure on their natural habitat and poaching. The wild animals are found in Panchthar, Taplejung, Shankhuwasabha, Solukhumbhu, Ramechhap, Ilam, Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk, Rasuwa and Khotang districts. They live at altitudes of between 2,200 and 4,800 metres.