Red Panda Network has exciting news: we’re about to begin our first in situ conservation project in Bhutan! This will be our first in situ conservation project in a country other than Nepal, and is a wonderful chance to expand our efforts to protect red pandas and their habitat through empowering local people to another of the red panda’s range countries.
Bhutan, like Nepal, is a landlocked country perched in the southern Himalayas. The mountains and river valleys that make up most of Bhutan’s territory mean that the small country enjoys enormous natural beauty and biodiversity. The government of Bhutan, a constitutional monarchy, made international news in the past by openly prioritizing its citizens’ happiness. Bhutan has enshrined environmental protections in the most recent constitution, and a huge network of national parks and protected areas crosses its territory, but there is still work to be done. Like many developing nations, Bhutan is working to balance environmental concerns with the requirements of a modern economy and changing climate.
Eastern Bhutan is home to the Brokpa, an indigenous semi-nomadic group of yak and cattle herders. Their traditional winter rangelands overlap with Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, a richly biodiverse preserve containing red panda habitat. Crunched by land overuse and poor access to services in their remote homeland, the Brokpa have been increasing herd sizes and relying more on forest use to survive, further straining the environment and adding pressure to the animal populations around them. Additionally, forest degradation has led to landslides, threatening farms and homes on lower slopes and further damaging the environment.
This project will help the Brokpa manage their land more effectively and sustainably by introducing them to community land care techniques developed in Australia. Better-managed land use will mean that the Brokpa will be able to maintain their way of life more easily and safely, while also improving their livelihoods and reducing human pressure on nearby red panda habitat. Red Panda Network will be working to educate Brokpa youth and community leaders on the value of their neighbor, the red panda, as well as conducting the first survey of red panda population and habitat ever undertake in this area of Bhutan. This information will be extremely valuable in accessing the overall conservation situation for the red panda and the development of potential multi-country conservation plans.
Red Panda Network will be working on this project with Charles Sturt University in Australia, the Government of Bhutan, the World Wildlife Fund, and Australian Landcare International. Funding is provided by the UK Darwin Initiative Fund from 2016 to 2019. To keep track of developments, subscribe to RPN’s e-mail list and visit redpandanetwork.org and redpandabhutan.wordpress.com.
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Writing and Communications Volunteer
Red Panda Network