Assessing the status, habitat and distribution of red pandas in Nepal

Red Panda Network is announcing an exciting project this year which will entail studying, analyzing, and recording the national status of red pandas in Nepal. The existing status of red pandas, Ailurus fulgens, is not well-known at this time. Studies in the past did not provide essential baseline data on the red pandas’ distribution, the number of red pandas in each area, habitat quality, as well as deforestation and climate change in their region. In addition, previous studies were confined to the district level, and some particular small patches at VDC (Village Development Committees). This study is unique because it will evaluate the status of red pandas throughout their entire range in Nepal.

Red Panda Range_Nepal

Our national red panda survey will be extensive with a number of very important goals. The first goal is to identify past trends and the present status and distribution of red pandas in Nepal. In 1997, scientist PB Yonzon estimated the total population of red pandas in Nepal to be around 314 individuals, whereas scientist Sharada Jnawali’s study in 2012 indicated the population to be somewhere between 237 and 1061 individuals. These studies were inconclusive because they were primarily based on habitat suitability analysis. Red Panda Network’s study will provide reliable results through the use of both published and unpublished reports, land use maps of the survey areas, as well as detailed information on red pandas using state of the art GPS technology, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software.

The second goal of this study is to identify existing and potential red panda habitat as well as corridors and population hotspots in Nepal. Land use maps will be used to study the types of forest within red panda habitat which include: broad-leaf deciduous forest, birch and alpine scrub, fir forest, broad-leaf conifer forest, rhododendron forest, oak forest, and coniferous forest with bamboo. The land use maps will also be used to study the elevation of the habitat survey area (2000-4000m). Special attention will be given to both direct and indirect signs such as foot prints, droppings, scratch marks and foraging marks.

Field-activities-during-survey  (7)

The third goal of this study is to identify both climatic and non-climatic threats to red panda conservation. This will be accomplished through focus group discussions, key informant discussions, as well as meetings with local experts, communities and stakeholders. These approaches will help assess the efficiency of red panda conservation programs in Nepal.

The fourth goal of the red panda survey is to review and record current red panda conservation initiatives with non-governmental organizations and government agencies in Nepal. These agencies will be assessed for their continuing support at the program, activity and policy levels as well as identifying any inconsistencies. The focus will be on the role of different agencies/stakeholders in red panda conservation as well as specific conservation measures to help the red pandas and their habitat.

Red panda spotted during survey

Red panda spotted during survey

The fifth goal of this study is to recommend best management practices and measures for long-term red panda conservation at the program, activity and policy level in Nepal. The best management practices will be determined after completing the following activities: 1) Inception Workshop; 2) Consulation Meeting with Stakeholders; 3) Training of Field Biologists; 4) Field Survey and Sample Collection; 5) DNA Extraction and Assay Optimization; 6) Laboratory Processing; 7) Analysis and Report Preparation; 8) Sharing Workshop.

Red Panda Network’s study team for the national status, habitat, and distribution survey in Nepal includes, but is not limited to the following staff members: Damber Bista, Principal Investigator; Manish Kokh, GIS Specialist; Prakash Paudel, Data Analyst; Annapura Nanda Das and Professor Suresh Ghimire, Botanists; and 36 Field Biologists.

Thank you for reading!

Danielle Lippe
Writing and Communications Volunteer
Red Panda Network

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