Pervasive human disturbance on habitats of endangered red panda Ailurus fulgens in the central Himalaya

July 15, 2018 / 5 mins read

Krishna Prasad Acharya, Saroj Shrestha, Prakash Kumar Paudel, Ang Phuri Sherpa, Shant Raj Jnawali, Sakshi Acharya, Damber Bista

Global Ecology and Conservation, Volume 15

15 July 2018.

Red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) live in the dense forests of mid-hills of the Himalaya and feed almost exclusively on bamboo. They are vulnerable to extinction due to human induced disturbances. Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation along with poaching are the most pressing anthropogenic threats to red panda conservation. The extinction risk to red pandas is further compounded by their life history traits. However, there is a paucity of information regarding human impact on red panda habitats. We have used presence and absence data collected from entire red panda range in Nepal, including habitat both inside and outside the Protected Areas (PAs) to examine the impact of human disturbance on their distribution. Our findings indicate that red panda prefer less disturbed habitats but will occupy human disturbed areas. Signs of poaching and cattle trails were significantly associated with red panda presence throughout Nepal while livestock faeces and landslides were negatively associated. Plant disturbance, presence of solid waste and proximity to herders' shed were significantly associated with presence of red panda in PAs whereas landslides and livestock faeces were significant disturbance variables outside the PAs. The findings show that red panda habitats are invariably disturbed and that integrated conservation programs such as awareness, livelihood support that reduces human dependency on forests, and regulations are must.