22
May

Red Panda Network Forest Guardians: Key to the Future of Red Pandas

Red Panda Network (RPN) follows best practices in wildlife conservation, which finds that the local people living among the wildlife hold the key to a sustainable future for these animals. That is why Red Panda Network is invested in creating a sustainable future for its 54 Forest Guardians and the forest communities living near red panda habitat. Hiring local citizens as professional forest stewards empowers the local community to protect the surrounding environment and wildlife.

Red Panda Network’s Project Punde Kundo was the first to involve the local community in red panda conservation, starting out with six forest guardians in 2007 to protect and conserve red panda habitat in the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) corridor of eastern Nepal. As of May 2016, Red Panda Network employs 54 Forest Guardians from 27 Village District Committees (VDCs) in eastern Nepal, although more than 100 individuals are trained and ready to deploy. In total, RPN’s Forest Guardians work in 35 community forests in the PIT corridor.

FGs with a vulunteer fron Auckland Zoo in the field during training

Forest Guardian Training

Forest Guardians support red panda conservation through multiple activities, such as monitoring red panda populations and habitat, generating population estimates, identifying threats and developing threat mitigation strategies. Recently, Forest Guardians have also been trained on anti-poaching investigation techniques.

In 2015, Red Panda Network’s Forest Guardians were trained on nature guiding and organic farming techniques. The Forest Guardian program is a part of our Sustainable Livelihood Enhancement (SLE) initiatives and provides an alternative income source to the local people that fosters the protection of local biodiversity. RPN’s SLE initiatives are creating a growing network of individuals who are invested in sustainable development and wildlife conservation.

Forest Guardians during the Nature Guide Training

Graduates of Nature Guide Training

Perhaps most importantly is the role these Forest Guardians have within  their own communities. Each Forest Guardian works within his or her respective village to build awareness of the importance of red pandas to the local ecosystem. Forest Guardians highlight the need for community-based strategies and legal provisions pertaining to red panda conservation.

Through this conservation approach, the communities learn to monitor, protect and sustain a healthy landscape. This approach directly includes and benefits the local people and is a successful model that is replicable to other regions where wildlife populations are vulnerable.

Forest Guardians help to mobilize the community into action to collectively preserve local biodiversity. They truly hold the key to the future of red pandas. Click here to learn more about our Forest Guardian program.

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Thank you for reading,

Nancy Whelan
Volunteer
Red Panda Network

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