Red panda in eastern Nepal: How do they fit into ecoregional conservation of the eastern Himlaya

January 31, 2006 / 5 mins read

Brian H. Williams

Conservation Biology in Asia p236-251

January 2006

Ecoregion-based conservation (ERBC) is the crux of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) global landscape-level biodiversity conservation vision. An ecoregion transcends national borders and, instead, focuses on meaningful biological boundaries that support distinct, major ecological and evolutionary processes which create and maintain biodiversity. Therefore, ERBC ensures longterm protection through representative regional biodiversity. In 1999, WWF and several other international conservation organizations held a workshop to create an ERBC plan for the Eastern Himalaya. One of the critical eco-regions in this plan was the Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf and Conifer Forest, the most under-represented forest type in Nepal’s protected area system. In 2002- 2003, an interdisciplinary study was conducted focusing on red panda and human ecology to understand the current status and future threats to the endangered red panda and Eastern Himalayan broadleaf ecosystem. To determine red panda distribution and micro-habitat usage over a 12 km2 study area, an elevational scat survey and sampling of 133 red panda and random plots was conducted from 2,400m – 3,000 m. A land-use survey and non-formal and formal interviews were conducted to understand human usage of Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf and Conifer Forest. The results of this preliminary ecological research indicate that red panda are possible indicators of the status of the Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf and Conifer Ecoregion in eastern Nepal. Human ecological results indicate that the creation of eastern Nepal’s first road, through Jamuna and Mabu Village Development Committees, began a trend of intensive, marketdriven land-use, which has, in turn, threatened red panda and its habitat, the Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf and Conifer Forest.