Meet the People Who Are Protecting Red Pandas from Poachers

December 22, 2022 / 5 mins read
Meet the People Who Are Protecting Red Pandas from Poachers

Wildlife crime is causing a precarious situation for red pandas in Nepal. Fortunately, the local communities are committed to saving them from extinction.

Surat Kumar Rai and his family live in Memeng, a small village in the Phalelung Rural Municipality of Panchthar district, eastern Nepal. The local forest, the Aahale Narehung Community Forest, is an essential habitat for rare and unique wildlife, like red pandas.

Surat has been a Forest Guardian (FG) since 2014. His responsibilities include monitoring and protecting the Aahale Narehung Community Forest and educating fellow community members on the importance of red panda conservation.

This area is part of the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) corridor. With more red pandas than anywhere else in Nepal – containing approximately 25% of the country’s red panda population – the PIT corridor is part of the Kangchenjunga Singhalila Complex: one of the most biologically diverse places on earth.

Forest Guardian, Surat Kumar Rai. Sponsored by Bioparc Doué la Fontaine. Learn more.

Surat is one of over 100 FGs in Nepal; seventy-six work in the PIT corridor (35 FGs work in our project areas in western Nepal). FGs are professional forest stewards and our local conservation ambassadors who monitor red panda habitat, conduct education and outreach activities, and protect red pandas from habitat destruction and poachers.

Thanks to supporters like you, we recruited 14 new members to the national FG team, and 107 FGs were trained in red panda monitoring techniques in Nepal this year.

Like many FGs, Surat is part of an anti-poaching network that patrols red panda habitat, removes traps and snares, and reports poaching activity to enforcement agencies (they also record incidents of habitat degradation). Surat was one of 133 local stakeholders – organized by smaller patrol units comprised of FGs, Community Forest User Group (CFUG) members, forest technicians from Division Forest Offices, Nepali police, and local representatives – who were involved in forest patrolling in 2022.

You can help propel our mission forward to stop red panda poaching with a donation that will have three times the impact, thanks to First Panda Challengers, who are matching gifts x3!

DSC_0358.JPGAnti-poaching patrol team in Nepal's red panda habitat.

Thanks to you, we have established nine anti-poaching networks in Nepal. They patrolled 276.28 km of red panda habitat in 32 community forests and two national forests in 7 districts (Ilam, Panchthar, Taplejung, Dolpa, Rolpa, Jajarkot, Rukum West) in Nepal this year!

We also recently organized four anti-poaching awareness workshops for enforcement personnel in Jaubari and Kalapokari of Ilam district and Ranke and Pauwabhanjang of Panchthar district.

Fifty-two members of the Nepal police force and CFUG attended the workshops. We educated participants on laws and policies related to poaching and illegal wildlife trade and shared our red panda monitoring and anti-poaching activities and strategies. The workshops will augment collaboration and joint patrolling between our anti-poaching networks and enforcement staff.

DSC_2201.JPGParticipants of anti-poaching awareness workshops in Nepal.

DSC_0060.JPGForest Guardian and anti-poaching network member, Alisha Kerung, patrolling red panda habitat.

Support from our members, donors, and conservation partners – First Panda Challengers are generously augmenting the impact of all donations through the end of the year – has resulted in nearly 500 local people trained in anti-poaching monitoring techniques!

Dayahang Rai is a celebrity ambassador for red panda conservation. He is helping us combat poaching by raising public awareness. We were honored to work with Dayahang on producing a theater PSA with a conservation and anti-poaching message.

Celebrity red panda conservation ambassador, Dayahang Rai.

Thankfully, our community-based and multi-faceted approach to conservation are producing positive results that local people are witnessing. Sonam Lama, chairperson of Hile Community Forest shares his perspective:

"We used to hear the stories of illegal poaching and hunting of wild animals in our forest area. Now, the scenario is different. We barely find any traps and snares set for wild animals. Illegal poaching and hunting of wild animals are of no question. I can proudly say that this is the result of the monitoring and patrolling the Forest Guardians and community forest users do on a regular basis. This has also made poachers and hunters from other areas aware, which reduced the possibility of them visiting our forest area for illegal poaching activities. Our community advocates for stronger actions against poachers."

With all this progress and positive updates, we must remember that wildlife crime still threatens the future of the unique, important, and endangered red panda.

Thankfully our incredible donors and conservation partners have helped us reach our initial goal of raising $100,000 this holiday season, which will make a tremendous difference in our efforts to stop red panda poaching. But now we want to do more through a triple-match offered by our First Panda Challengers!

infographic_giving_tuesday_TRIPLE-0001.jpgTriple your impact and help us raise $175,000 for red panda conservation! Design by Laura Finnegan.

That's right, First Panda Challengers are tripling donations through the end of the year! So if you haven't already, please support our No Panda Poaching campaign by making a donation that will be matched x3.

Together, we will stop poaching and save the last of the first panda.