From local villagers of red panda range countries who use red panda habitat for their survival to the general public in developing countries, few people are aware of the plight of the red panda.
The Red Panda Network’s first goal is to raise the level of awareness in local villages surrounding red panda habitat, and our second goal is to raise awareness in the general public worldwide. Communities surrounding red panda habitat are usually marginalized and have inadequate elementary education. The Red Panda Network complements this education through its “forest guardian” program.
We conduct “forest guardian” workshops that provide educational training about the importance of red panda and the fragility of the Eastern Himalayan ecosystem. At a “forest guardian” workshop community members are trained to perform monthly monitoring of sample plots in each community forest area, documenting presence/absence of red pandas, other wildlife, and take note of changes in vegetation.
Together with teachers in 30 schools we developed a middle-school curriculum for red panda environmental education. In similar workshops teachers are trained and given educational materials to conduct “forest ranger” trainings at their local schools, building awareness in the young generation for forest conservation issues, and the value of the resources.
In 2006, our objective was to conduct 5 “forest guardian” trainings in Nepal. In 2007-2009, The Red Panda Network conducted another 5 trainings in Nepal. In 2010-2013 we continued to train existing and new forest guardians. In 2013-2014, we plan to establish programs in India.
In addition to the “forest guardian” program, we raise awareness in the general public worldwide. For example, in 2005, we assisted in the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in the creation of the red panda content for their South Asia Trail exhibit (opened spring 2006), created and published the RPN website and attended 5 conferences and expos.
From 2006, we began using the power of the internet to reach out to a wider audience. In 2011 we significantly increased social media outreach. Between 2011 and 2013 our Facebook page went from 1,000 to over 12,000 ‘likes’, and individual posts, which in mid 2012 barely reached one to two-thousand people in 2013 routinely exceeded five- to ten-thousand readers. An iPhone game created by our volunteers hit 10,000 downloads in it’s first month in mid 2012, and continues to reach completely new audiences who had never heard of red pandas.
Besides zoos, we identified schools as important outreach partners. With San Jose State University Environmental Education majors, we created a cross-cultural curriculum and volunteer awareness program to be used in elementary schools in the Santa Clara Valley.
Since 2009 students in schools around the world participated in our awareness programs:
Our Red Panda rangers program has become a big hit with young conservationists, and with the creation of the annual International Red Panda Day we succeeded to deepen and multiply our education outreach and participation in zoos and partner organizations worldwide.