Nepal | July 08, 2020

Conserve the red panda

Yogesh Rana Magar
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The red panda is a red cat bear, which is called Habre in Nepali and Punde Kundo in eastern Nepal. It is a Himalayan member of Carnivora, whose scientific name is Ailurus fulgens and is also called the lesser panda. An adult has about 93 cm to 100 cm in length and 4 kg to 6 kg weight on average. It loves to feed on leaves and shoots of highly fibrous bamboo (nigalo or malingo) though it ingests some other kinds of plants, such as fruits or berries, as their seasonal supplement.

A broad-leaved mixed temperate forest with bamboo is an essential habitat feature for it. It lives in a range of altitudes from 2,500–4,000 m, however; it has been reported to have come down to 1,500 m to 5,000 m. It generally avoids south-facing slopes preferring cooler climate. Habitat loss is affecting over 2,000 mammal species. Habitat fragmentation, habitat destruction and habitat loss due to deforestation, haphazard collection of forest products, uncontrolled livestock grazing, unmanaged road construction, inefficiently managed tourism are serious threats for it. Domestic dogs and poaching are other threats to a red panda.

According to Red Panda Network, the global population of red pandas is estimated to be less than 10,000 in the wild. Population of red pandas is estimated at 237 to 1061 in Nepal. Its population is declining due to low fecundity, high infant mortality rate, parasitic infection, population isolation, bamboo flowering and anthropogenic threats. It is a protected species in Nepal, India, China, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Around 22,400 km2 of Nepal is a suitable habitat for red pandas, which is 56.25 percent of potential red panda habitat in the Hindukush Himalaya. About 36 districts of Nepal are potential habitats for it. Its occupancy has been confirmed in 24 districts of Nepal so far. LNP (Langtang National Park) is one of the prime habitats of red pandas. LNPBZ (Langtang National Park Buffer Zone) covers an area of 418.3 km2 adjoining Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok districts of Nepal. There are altogether 21 User Groups of LNPBZ. Red panda poaching and anthropogenic pressure on it should be controlled immediately. More people oriented conservation programs would increase effectiveness. Sufficient drinking water, proper education, health facility and electricity in such buffer zone communities would avoid biotic pressure not only on red pandas but also on biodiversity conservation as a whole.

 


A version of this article appears in print on May 25, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.


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