Since April of this year, nearly 70 people have joined our Panda Guardian team—kicking off 2019 as a pivotal year for guarding red pandas from extinction.
In 2006, Red Panda Network (RPN) initiated the Red Panda Project or Project Punde Kundo (red panda is locally known as Punde Kundo) in the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) Corridor of Eastern Nepal to conduct the first-ever monitoring of red pandas in their wild habitat.
Fourteen local people villages in Ilam and Panchthar were selected as the first Forest Guardians (FGs) by the Red Panda Project. The goal of the FG program was to engage and empower community members to safeguard their forests and protect a rare and endangered mammal of the Himalayas: the red panda.
The goals of the FG program have not changed and has since grown to 100 members! The program has also expanded to seven additional districts in Western Nepal and now extends to nearly one million acres of forest and 50% of Nepal's red panda range.
This level of growth has been made possible by the generosity and commitment of RPN’s Panda Guardian team.
Panda Guardian is the title given to RPN’s monthly donors. Their continuous support allows RPN to commit to lasting and sustainable conservation initiatives in red panda countries. In 2018, Panda Guardians raised $23,643 for red pandas and in 2019 we are on track to surpass this amount.
This is huge for the FG program which is the cornerstone for RPN’s community-based approach and sustainable livelihood initiatives. The Panda Guardian team directly supports FG salaries and capacity-building trainings.
“Being able to count on the support of our Panda Guardians has been important to our progress,” said Ang Phuri Sherpa, RPN’s Country Director in Nepal. “ We can now implement long-term projects and as a result our impact in Nepal is bigger than ever.”
Panda Guardian members are often deeply passionate about conserving red pandas and get further involved in a number of ways including volunteering with RPN, celebrating at—and even organizing—International Red Panda Day events, as well as attending ecotrips in Nepal.
“I support the Red Panda Network because of their holistic approach to conservation, including on-ground research and monitoring, advocacy and education,” says a Panda Guardian member named Veronica from Australia. “I especially admire their community-based conservation model, harnessing the knowledge and passion of local people to protect and enhance red panda habitat, in turn improving the livelihoods of communities living in those areas.”
The model Veronica is referring to was developed in the PIT Corridor which is being established as the PIT Red Panda Protected Forest: the world’s first protected area dedicated to red pandas! This community conservation approach has now been replicated in Western Nepal where red pandas were unprotected and facing local extinction.
“I can't imagine a world without red pandas, and I'm so grateful that organisations like the Red Panda Network are fighting to keep these beautiful and unique species in the wild,” continues Veronica.
Of course, like Veronica, most of our recurring donors give because they want red pandas to be around—in the wild—for future generations. For their dedication to conservation, Panda Guardians now qualify for a 15% discount at the Red Panda Store, which includes organic tea and earrings. We are also in the process of offering exclusive bi-monthly calls with the RPN field team in Nepal. These PG Conservation Calls will give Panda Guardian members the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the conservation work their donations are supporting.