All of our work is community-based and benefits the livelihoods of the local people. We partner with local non-profits and community organizations throughout the implementation of our red panda conservation programs.
We work with one partner in each of our working districts in Nepal; Himali Conservation Forum in Taplejung, Deep Jyoti in Panchthar, and SHAGG in Ilam.
Through status surveys and baseline research, we identify unprotected red panda habitat with viable populations of 100 individuals or more. We use The Mountain Institute’s Appreciative Participatory Planning and Action methodology and identify forest stewards, whom we call “forest guardians.” These guardians organize awareness-building workshops on red pandas with local villages and schools and conduct red panda population and habitat monitoring; all work that is pivotal to the establishment of community-based protected areas. Using this methodology, we are in the process of establishing our first community-based protected area, the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) Red Panda Protected Forest, in the Panchthar and Ilam districts of eastern Nepal.
Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Red Panda Protected Forest: The World’s First Protected Area Dedicated to Red Panda
The Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) corridor in eastern Nepal is part of the Kangchenjunga Singhalila Complex (KSC), which provides connectivity between protected areas in India and Nepal. The region is one of the most biologically-diverse areas in the world and has been recognized as an important area for global biodiversity conservation by a number of leading international conservation organizations including WWF, BirdLife International and Conservation International.
Establishing the PIT Red Panda Protected Forest will connect the tri-national Kanchenjunga Conservation Area with India’s Barsey Rhododendron Garden and Singhalila National Park, creating an uninterrupted stretch of protected land extending for 11,500 km2. This area is critical not only to the red panda but also to many other threatened species who share habitat with red pandas including clouded leopards, Himalayan black bears, and hundreds of bird species. However, this area is most important to red pandas because:
1. It contains approximately 25% of Nepal’s red panda population with approximately 100 individuals found in 178 km2 of habitat.
2. The Singhalila ridge red panda population is protected in only half of its range (in India’s Singhalila National Park).
The proposed PIT Red Panda Protected Forest will be the largest “protected forest” in Nepal and the first to be managed by a network of community forests. According to the Government of Nepal forest legislation, any community forest can declare a portion of their managed land as “protected”. Our goal is to create the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Community Forest Conservation Union, a network of all community forests bordering the proposed Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Red Panda Protected Forest. The Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Community Forest Conservation Union will elect a board of about 12 members that will manage the 708 km2 of the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Red Panda Protected Forest.