Nordens Ark Is Making Dreams of Red Panda Conservation Come True

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May 17, 2021

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Programs that foster sustainable livelihoods and alleviate poverty among local communities are essential to saving red pandas in Nepal. Thanks to Nordens Ark, our impact will be bigger than ever with the Sustainable Living Center.

Situated on nearly 1,000 acres of historic land in Sweden, Nordens Ark has been working tirelessly to ensure endangered animals have a future both at home and abroad. Their strong focus on rear and release, conservation, public education, research, and training have benefited a wide range of species — from fast-flying peregrine falcons in the sky, all the way down to smaller invertebrate species such as beetles. Their holistic approach to conservation and stewardship for wildlife and resources makes them an exciting partner to work with!

Nordens Ark believes “that endangered species should attain viable populations in their natural environments and that biodiversity is preserved”. They are supporting an impressive variety of conservation projects benefiting a huge number of species in the wild including frogs, bees, and red pandas!

In addition to their dedication to preserving species and stabilizing their wild populations, Nordens Ark places a high priority on reducing their overall environmental impact in everything they do. These efforts can be seen across the organization; they are constantly looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Their Environmental Diploma with the Swedish Environmental Base, which they have held since 2010, also reflects their commitment to upholding a high standard of environmental management guidelines in their operations. With a dedication to saving species, their habitats, and ensuring sustainability for humans and the animals around us, Nordens Ark makes the perfect partner for The Red Panda Network’s Sustainable Living Center.

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Construction of Sustainable Living Center in Taplejung district, eastern Nepal.

Both Nordens Ark and Red Panda Network (RPN) recognize the importance of how intricately sustainable use of the Earth’s resources and human actions impact wildlife and their habitats. The Sustainable Living Center, located in Taplejung, Nepal, will serve as a central location for locals to learn about topics such as sustainable energy use, herding, and organic farming. The overall goal of the center is to alleviate poverty and create a multitude of sustainable living opportunities for the local people. Nordens Ark’s contributions to the building of this center support the community, their families, and the animals and plants who call this rich biodiversity hotspot home.

Nordens Ark has exhibited red pandas in their public park since 1989 and has always actively participated as a member of the European breeding program, also known as the EAZA Ex-Situ Programme (EEP). In 2013, the red panda EEP invited all red panda holders to assist in red panda conservation by supporting RPN and the Forest Guardian (FG) program.

Members of FG team during habitat monitoring.
Members of FG team during habitat monitoring.

The FG program employs local people to monitor and protect red panda habitat and help educate the local communities on the importance of conservation and sustainability. The support for the FG program from several zoological facilities has provided sustainable income and experience in environmental stewardship for over 100 people! The Red Panda Network is also committed to recruiting female Forest Guardians and empowering women to stand up for gender inequality in Nepal.

“The Red Panda EEP is the largest of the regional breeding programmes and the idea was that if each zoo gave €250 per year, the EEP could support more than 20 Forest Guardians,” says Emma Nygren, the Head of Conservation Programmes at Nordens Ark. “We at Nordens Ark thought the Forest Guardian program was a great initiative and started supporting Red Panda Network efforts through the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the EEP."

Nordens Ark continued their support of this program for years but still felt that they wanted to do even more to help preserve red pandas and their habitat. They were in discussions with RPN regarding other projects they could help support when a great opportunity for funding presented itself via The Swedish Postcode Lottery.

The Swedish Postcode Lottery is Sweden’s largest lottery, with the objective of generating money for organizations in the nonprofit sector and creating a better world. They put out a call for grants to supply funding to qualifying projects, and Nordens Ark was quick to jump on the opportunity. “The grant criteria were a perfect fit to apply for the construction of the Sustainable Living Center. We were of course thrilled that we were successful with our application and are really proud to be a partner to The Red Panda Network on this amazing project.” Emma says.

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Emma Nygren, Head of Conservation Programmes at Nordens Ark.

With the funding and support of Nordens Ark — totaling $377,000 over a three-year period — RPN was able to start construction of the Sustainable Living Center in 2019. The expected completion of the project is sometime later this year, and like all RPN initiatives, the goal is for the Sustainable Living Center to be self-sustaining and locally operated down the road. The Center will serve as a hub for conservation, education, and sustainability, while also increasing the annual income of over 2,000 local families.

Red panda at Nordens Ark.
Red panda at Nordens Ark. © Marie Hasselberg

Red Panda Network is thrilled to watch this long-time dream of the organization come to fruition, and incredibly grateful for the support of Nordens Ark on this project as well as other key initiatives supporting red pandas, their habitats, and the communities who live alongside them.

Danica Wolfe
Writing and Communications Volunteer
Red Panda Network