• Press Release: Dayahang Rai: Red Panda Network Conservation Ambassador

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    Popular Nepali actor, director, and playwriter, Dayahang Rai, has joined Red Panda Network (RPN) as a conservation ambassador.

    Dayahang is one of Nepal’s acclaimed film stars. He will help us raise national awareness of this endangered species and a rising threat to their survival — the illegal red panda trade.

    “We are thrilled to work with one of the most popular actors in Nepal,” says Ang Phuri Sherpa, RPN’s Country Director. “We are very hopeful that he will bring our red panda conservation message to a wider audience in Nepal, as well as India, and Bhutan.”

    Dayahang is also eager to help RPN’s mission. “I grew up in a remote village in eastern Nepal. I spent my childhood feeling very close to nature but I was never aware that our area is blessed with the presence of this beautiful animal.”

    Wild red panda photgraphed on camera trap in eastern Nepal. © RPN
    Wild red panda photgraphed on camera trap in eastern Nepal. © RPN
    Dayahang Rai and RPN Program Coordinator, Sonam Tashi Lama. © Rashik Maharjan/RPN
    Dayahang Rai and RPN Program Coordinator, Sonam Tashi Lama. © Rashik Maharjan/RPN

    Highway and White Sun are Dayahang’s internationally successful films. White Sun was selected as the Nepali entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Award and was premiered at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. He has received three national awards for Best Supporting Actor in 2009 for Dasdhunga and Best Actor for Sambodhan and Kabaddi Kabaddi in 2014 and 2016. Dayahang has acted in 40 Nepali movies including Kabbaddi and Loot which are some of the most popular. He is also very active in Nepali theater; acting in 33 plays, and directing and writing over a dozen more.

    “I am fortunate to be a part of this noble effort to conserve our national treasure. I will try my best to contribute to the conservation of red panda.”

    Print and broadcast media contact: 

    Terrance Fleming (877) 854-2391 Ext. 101, terrance@redpandanetwork.org 

    For further information contact: 

    Sonam Tashi Lama, +977 9841843968, sonam.lama@redpandanetwork.org 

    Red Panda Network protects wild red pandas and their habitat through the education and empowerment of local communities. Learn more about our work at www.redpandanetwork.org.

    Dayahang Rai and RPN Country Director, Ang Phuri Sherpa.
    Dayahang Rai and RPN Country Director, Ang Phuri Sherpa.

    दयाहाङ राई:  रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्क संरक्षण दूतमा नियुक्त 

    प्रेस विज्ञप्तिको पिडीएफ डाउनलोड गर्नुहोस् ।

    नेपालको कला क्षेत्रमा सफल कलाकार, निर्देशक र नाट्यकारको रुपमा परिचित दयाहाङ राई रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्क संरक्षण दूतको रुपमा नियुक्त हुनुभएको छ ।

    दयाहाङ राईले नेपाली चलचित्र जगतमा अत्यन्तै ख्याति कमाउनु भएको छ । उहाँले दुर्लभ वन्यजन्तु रेड पाण्डा (हाब्रे) को संरक्षण र रेड पाण्डाको अवैध चोरी-शिकारको विरुद्धमा जनचेतना जगाउन रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्कलाई सहयोग गर्नुहुनेछ ।   

    “हामी नेपालका एक प्रसिद्ध कलाकार दयाहाङ राईसँग रेड पाण्डा संरक्षणको कार्यमा सहकार्य गर्न पाउँदा अत्यन्तै हर्षित छौ । यस सहकार्यको माध्यमवाट रेड पाण्डा संरक्षणको आवाजलाई आम-जनमासमा पुर्याउँन हामी सफल हुनेछौ भन्ने कुरामा म विश्वस्त छु ।” रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्कका निर्देशक आङ फूरी शेर्पाले भन्नुभयो ।

    Wild red panda photgraphed on camera trap in eastern Nepal. © RPN

    पूर्वी नेपालमा स्वचालित क्यामराले कैद गरिएको रेड पाण्डाको फोटो । © रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्क

    Dayahang Rai and RPN Program Coordinator, Sonam Tashi Lama. © Rashik Maharjan/RPN

    कलाकार दयाहाङ राई र रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्कका सोनाम टासी लामा  © रशिक महर्जन/रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्क

    दयाहाङ राई रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्कको संरक्षण कार्यमा सम्मिलित हुन पाउँदा अत्यन्तै उत्साहित हुनुहुन्छ । “म पूर्वी नेपालको ग्रामीण परिवेशमा हुर्के । मेरो वाल्यकाल प्रकृतिको सामिप्यतामा बित्यो तर मलाई हाम्रो क्षेत्र यति सुन्दर जनावरले सु-शोभित छ भन्ने कुराको हेक्का कहिल्यै भएन । हाम्रो राष्ट्रको प्राकृतिक सम्पदाको रुपमा रहेको यस जनावरको संरक्षणमा आफुलाई सामेल गराउन पाउँदा म गौरवान्दित छु । म आफ्नो तर्फवाट यस जनावरको संरक्षणमा योगदान दिन अथक प्रयत्न गर्नेछु ।” राईले भन्नुभयो ।

    हाईवे  र ह्वाईट सन  राईका अन्तराष्ट्रिय रुपमा सफल चलचित्रहरु हुन् । नव्वेऔं अकाडमी अवार्डमा ह्वाईट सनले अन्तराष्ट्रिय भाषाको सर्वश्रेष्ठ चलचित्र विधामा नेपाली भाषाको चलचित्रको प्रतिनिधित्व गरेको थियो । उक्त चलचित्रलाई ७३औं भेनिस चलचित्र महोत्सवमा प्रिमिएर गरिएको थियो । राईले दासढुंगा, सम्बोधन र कवड्डी कवड्डीका लागि तीनवटा राष्ट्रिय अवार्ड जित्नुभएको छ । चालिस भन्दा धेरै नेपाली चलचित्रमा उहाँको अभिनय हेर्न सकिन्छ, जसमा कवड्डी कवड्डी र लुट सफल चलचित्रहरु मध्ये पर्दछन् । उहाँ नेपाली नाट्य विधामा पनि उतिकै सक्रिय हुनुहुन्छ ।

    छापा र प्रसारण मिडियाको लागि:

    टेरेन्स फ्लेमिंग, (८७७) ८५४-२३९१ एक्सटेन्सन १०१, terrance@redpandanetwork.org

    थप जानकारीको लागि: 

    सोनाम टासी लामा, +९७७ ९८४१८४३९६८, sonam.lama@redpandanetwork.org 

    रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्क रेड पाण्डा (हाव्रे) र यसको वासस्थान संरक्षणमा कार्यरत संस्था हो । थप जानकारीको लागि www.redpandanetwork.org मा हेर्नुहोला ।

    Dayahang Rai and RPN Country Director, Ang Phuri Sherpa.

    कलाकार दयाहाङ राई र रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्कका राष्ट्रिय निर्देशक आङफुरी शेर्पा  © सोनाम टासी लामा /रेड पाण्डा नेटवर्क

  • The Road to Deurali: Building a Future for People and Red Pandas

    The people, stories and photos from the construction site of a center committed to alleviating poverty and sustainable living.

    It’s monsoon season in Nepal and the weather is oscillating between heavy rainfall and beaming sunlight. Twenty-three-year-old Phurba Gurung is finishing up his chores before he starts his ten-kilometer commute to work from the district headquarters (Phungling Municipality-8) to Deurali, a mountain village in eastern Nepal’s Taplejung district.

    As Gurung arrives at the worksite he hears harsh yet familiar sounds of construction — loud clangs and cracks; sawing, smashing and hammering; machines humming, and he hears voices. He heads towards the noise and an extraordinary structure of stone and wood rises among a backdrop of forest and mountain. He joins his workers in building something never seen before by anyone in the area; a place that is very significant for local people and for wildlife.

    CCSL construction site in Deurali, Taplejung district, eastern Nepal.  © RPN
    CCSL construction site in Deurali, Taplejung district, eastern Nepal. © RPN

    This is the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Living (CCSL), and once finished, will be an education and skill-building hub that improves the living standards and increases the annual income of at least 2,000 local families.

    Illustration of CCSL on project site in Taplejung, eastern Nepal.
    Illustration of CCSL on project site in Taplejung, eastern Nepal.
    Pasang Sherpa cutting stones. © RPN
    Pasang Sherpa cutting stones. © RPN

    In Nepali, “Deurali” means the peak of a hill or pass where people usually take rest after their assent. But Gurung and his workers are not resting now. There are typically eight to ten workers at the CCSL site and one of them is a man who is busy cutting stones on a machine. His name is Pasang Sherpa and he is a 40-year-old local from the area. He shapes the stones as a tailor sews his clothes in a sewing machine. Sherpa developed this skill while living in Saudi Arabia for 9 years, “I prepare 70-75 stones daily. I do not feel any difficulties in this work as I frequently take breaks for food and water.”

    Another member of the CCSL team is Gurung’s site supervisor, a civil engineer named Sagar Pokharel. He talks about how this is an eco-friendly design and many of the materials used in the building are local and from sustainable sources. For example, what appears to be a concrete structure is actually a mix of soil, ash, eggshell, cow dung, and straw molded to a strong, concrete-like substance. The timber also comes for a sustainable source. 

    The CCSL construction site located on the route to Pathibhara temple, on the Pathibhara peak, a famous Hindu shrine that attracts thousands of visitors every year from Nepal, India and other parts of the world who often follow this route to trek to Mount Kangchenjunga basecamp. 

    A view of red-panda habitat from CCSL site. © RPN
    A view of red-panda habitat from CCSL site. © RPN

    Along with the Pathibhara temple and Kangchenjunga, the CCSL will be a center of attraction in the area, especially for ecotourists. Visitors and tourists will be able to stop by the CCSL to learn about environmental conservation and enjoy organic food in the nearby homestays. They will see breathtaking views of the forested hills — these “hills” are over 3,600 meters high but are dwarfed by the spectacular Himalayas — in Deurali Bhitri Community Forest (CF) and Sayapatri CF, and the third tallest mountain in the world,  Kangchenjunga at 8,586 meters. 

    Down in the forests below, RPN is working with Community Forest Users Groups (CFUGs) in sustainably managing their forests. One of our programs is Forest Conservation Nurseries (“RPN nursery” in map to the right) which help to generate jobs, increase local incomes and reduce pressure on forest resources by providing a sustainable source of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs)  for the local communities.

    Map of the CCSL area. © RPN
    Map of the CCSL area. © RPN

    The stakeholders in the area are supportive of sustainable development and see the CCSL’s potential for cultivating environmental stewardship among the visitors and tourists. Pasang Rita Sherpa, the secretary of the Deurali Bhitri CFUG, said, “initially, forest and wildlife conservation was not easy. But as we prioritized educating locals about the link between wildlife conservation and sustainable income for local people, they became more engaged in protecting their forests.” The Deurali Bhitri CFUG have now conserved about 200 hectares of red panda habitat. 

    Another stakeholder — Bhim Bista, a tea house owner in Deurali, believes the CCSL will help his business and other local businesses flourish as it becomes a renowned ecotourism destination. 

    And the center’s impacts won’t just be local. The thousands of people who visit the CCSL will return home with this message: Wildlife conservation and sustainable livelihoods are interdependent; thriving biodiversity can mean thriving communities and vice versa. The CCSL will also educate and demonstrate how to achieve community-based conservation.

    In 2021, the road to Deurali will have a new place to visit that is not only an education and resource center, but a monument of community-based conservation where people like Phurba Gurung have opportunities for a better life. “Of all the work I’ve done before, this is special to me. We are very motivated to see the final structure of the CCSL.”

    This important center that will help create a sustainable future for people and pandas in eastern Nepal is made possible by the support and generosity of is made Nordens Ark and Svenska Postkodlotteriet.

    Learn more about the CCSL and check out additional construction photos below!

     

    Phurba Gurung (blue shirt) preparing a pit for kiln (a type of oven).  © RPN

    Phurba Gurung (blue shirt) preparing a pit for kiln (a type of oven). © RPN

    Using the kiln to dry wood. © RPN
    Using the kiln to dry wood. © RPN
    Making mud mortar with mix of egg shell, mud, rice, straw and ash. © RPN
    Making mud mortar with mix of egg shell, mud, rice, straw and ash. © RPN
    The mud mortar will work as binding material for wall stones. © RPN
    The mud mortar will work as binding material for wall stones. © RPN
    The landscape where the CCSL is located: The right side is Deurali Community Forest and left side is Yamabung Community Forest. © RPN
    The landscape where the CCSL is located: The right side is Deurali Community Forest and left side is Yamabung Community Forest. © RPN
  • Help the People Who Help Red Pandas

    RPN is on a mission to improve the health and livelihoods of local families while protecting the home of this endangered species.

    On the surface, buying household appliances and donating to red panda conservation have nothing to do with one another.

    But as a Red Panda Network (RPN) Panda Guardian, your monthly donation to our Stoves for Stewards campaign helps the people who help the pandas.

    Since 2017, RPN has been on a mission to provide improved cooking stoves (ICS) to communities within the red panda range. The metal ICS not only are more fuel-efficient but also friendlier to the environment and human health than the mud-and-stone cookstoves traditionally used in these villages.

    The collection of firewood to fuel the traditional stoves contributes to deforestation and habitat loss threatening red pandas. Burning that wood, in turn, adversely affects the health of the people using the stoves.

    Fuelwood harvest is a major cause of deforestation in Nepal. © Red Panda Network.
    Fuelwood harvest is a major cause of deforestation in Nepal. © Red Panda Network.

    According to WHO, each year nearly four million people die prematurely from illnesses linked to indoor air pollution caused by cooking with inefficient stoves and open fires. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), ischaemic heart disease and pneumonia combined cause more than 70 percent of those deaths.

    RPN’s goal for this year is to furnish the homes of 85 of our Forest Guardians (FGs), as well as 110 homestay owners and other community members, with ICS. Each stove costs from US$350 to US$425, depending on size, but can be as much as US$500 due to fluctuations in the US dollar to Nepalese rupee exchange rate.

    To date, we’ve distributed 135 ICS to the FGs, herders, homestay owners and other people living in the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) Corridor of eastern Nepal. Just one of the stoves helps save 540 kilograms (about 1,190 pounds) of firewood per year, says RPN Program Coordinator Sonam Tashi Lama. That means the 135 ICS in the PIT Corridor help save nearly 73,000 kilograms (about 160,700 pounds) of firewood each year.

    Up to 34 percent of wood harvested for fuel worldwide is unsustainable, and burning solid fuels, such as wood, for cooking and heating produces up to 58 percent of black carbon emissions, according to the Clean Cooking Alliance, a public-private partnership that promotes clean-cooking methods around the world.

    By reducing wood consumption by about 50 percent, ICS help mitigate these effects. They also lessen the drudgery of food preparation, a task that in Nepal falls primarily upon women.

    Thanks to the improved stoves’ fuel efficiency, women spend less time collecting firewood and less time cooking than when using traditional stoves, Lama says. Cleaning is easier, too. “The smoke (from traditional stoves) also heavily soils clothing, and makes the cooking pots and interior walls black, requiring valuable time and effort to scrub clean,” he says.

    Local women with ICS. ©RPN
    Local women with ICS. ©RPN

    Ngima Dawa Sherpa, a Forest Guardian, has seen several benefits: “The three main advantages of adopting ICS are massive reduction in interior smoke, which means no irritation on eyes; no black scar on cooking utensils, which means less work for women on cleaning; and one can install the ICS as per their height, which helps in reducing back pain that is caused by cooking.”

    In the years since RPN began distributing the ICS, improvements have been made, such as the use of cast iron on the upper surfaces, Lama says. In addition, the stoves come in two sizes, one suitable for herders and one for families.

    Lama says demand from the community is important for acceptance of the technology and its sustainability. “Nepal is unique for its large forest capacity relative to population,” he says. “The stewardship of forestland de facto lies in the hands of the closest village. Governance over the use of these community forest resources takes the form of rules and norms formulated by the village and enforced by them. Our FGs, when aware about the negative impacts of habitat loss and deforestation to red panda habitat and overall biodiversity, were more than happy to switch to ICS.”

    Herder cooking on improved metal stove in herder tent. ©RPN
    Herder cooking on improved metal stove in herder tent. ©RPN
    ICS distribution to local people in eastern Nepal. ©RPN
    ICS distribution to local people in eastern Nepal. ©RPN

    Their adoption of the stoves has led to interest from other members of the community, such as tea house owners and hoteliers, Lama says. “We regularly receive demand for ICS via our partner organizations in the field during our community consultations.”

    Lama is hopeful this interest will lead to further improvements in biodiversity and quality of life as RPN expands our campaign beyond FGs and educates the public on using ICS.

    “We have a plan for regular monitoring of the efficient use of distributed ICS among the users because sometimes they lack proper use techniques of ICS, which may lead to overuse of firewood,” he says. “A local from each cluster of the community is being trained for installation and maintenance of ICS so that the person could monitor and provide support when needed locally.”

    Dawn Peterson
    Writing and Communications Volunteer
    Red Panda Network

    Learn more about our Stoves for Stewards campaign and how you can double your impact this month for the people who help red pandas!

  • 12 Ways Red Pandas Are Unique (and Cute!)

    With International Red Panda Day 2020 only weeks away, it's time to appreciate what we love about this unique species!

    1. Red pandas are the only living creatures in their family — Ailuridae. Their name might lead you to think that the red panda’s closest relative is the giant panda, but studies show that they are an ancient species in the order Carnivora, superfamily Musteloidea, which makes them probably most closely related to the group that includes weasels, raccoons, and skunks!

    80358984_10157042022113869_6957736608795721728_o (1)

    2. Red pandas are the result of what naturalists call convergent evolution: they're classified as carnivores, so their closest relatives are meat eaters, yet they live mainly on bamboo — about 95% of their diet! — which they only digest about 24 percent of the bamboo they eat.

    This means red pandas need to eat 20 to 30 percent of their body weight each day and have been found to eat approximately 20,000 bamboo leaves in a single day! Roots, succulent grasses, fallen fruits, insects & grubs, the occasional bird and small mammal are also within the red panda's diet. Here's one munching on grapes!

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    3. Red pandas are clearly cute but did you know their facial markings help them survive? The reddish 'tear tracks' extending from their eyes to the corner of their mouth may help keep the sun out of their eyes. The white on their face is "almost luminescent" and can guide a mother's lost cubs in the darkness! 

    © Mathias Appel
    © Mathias Appel

    4. To say red pandas are a 'high altitude species' is putting it mildly. Red pandas live in temperate forests at elevations between 2,200 and 4,000 meters! How high is that? Well the Empire State Building is only 443 meters tall and Mile High Stadium in Denver, CO is at 1,609 meters! Essentially, red pandas follow the trees up the mountains and their habitat ends at the treeline.

    Here, the summers are mild and wet, while the winters bring snow, so red pandas move lower during cold months. Though wintry weather isn't the ideal climate for them, it sure doesn't stop them from having a little fun with snow when they have the chance!

    22338757_10155173172458869_7633395002302055439_o

    5. When it gets really cold red pandas can become dormant and go into what is called torpor (a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal). They wrap their tail around themselves and go into a deep sleep, reducing their metabolic demands and lowering both their core temperature and respiration rate. They will even use their large tails as a pillow!

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    6. The fur on their feet is so thick they don't even leave a defined print! This fur helps keep their feet warm and prevents them from slipping on the wet and icy branches. 

    © Shepreth Wildlife Park
    © Shepreth Wildlife Park

    7. Did you know that the red panda has a sweet tooth? In a 2009 study in The Journal of Heredity, researchers discovered that red pandas preferred artificial sugars to plain or naturally sweetened bowls of water. That makes them the only non-primate species known to be able to taste aspartame, an ability previously thought unique to Old World monkeys, apes, and humans!

    Red panda Mei Mei at Oregon Zoo.
    Red panda Mei Mei at Oregon Zoo.

    8. Red pandas stand on their hind legs! While an upright panda may be cute, this is actually a defense mechanism as red pandas will often stand up to appear larger when provoked or threatened. They will also let out their loudest call: the huff-quack. It sounds like a big bear is in the room (while quacking) and if they are stressed or cornered they may even defend themselves with their sharp claws or release a foul smell from their scent glands on the intruder or stand on their hind legs. So if you ever see a standing panda you may want to keep your distance! 

    Photo from Cincinnati Zoo.
    Photo from Cincinnati Zoo.

    9. Red pandas also have very sharp claws and are one of the few animals that can climb straight down a tree, head-first!

    © Red Panda Network
    © Red Panda Network

    10. "Preadaptation" is when a species or taxonomic group develops a new use for a morphological feature that they inherited from their ancestors, who at one point, benefited from the feature in other ways.

    What is an example of a preadaptation in red pandas? Their thumbs! Which are actually hidden thumbs or modified wrist bones that originated in the carnivore ancestors of red pandas.

    Over time, the function of this thumb evolved to be used to assist in grasping and stripping bamboo stalks. And like raccoons, they also dip their paws into water when they take a drink!

    Design by Laura Finnegan. Share on social media!
    Design by Laura Finnegan. Share on social media!

    11. Red pandas spend most of their time in trees (arboreal) and aren't exactly built for efficient movement on the ground. In fact, they tend to only ground themselves when it is absolutely necessary! Their front legs are short and angled inward, which causes them to have their signature waddle-walk.

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    12. Red, black and white? Sometimes with hints of orange and yellow? One might not think these would be very good colors for a tree-dwelling mammal. But did you know this precise color combination helps them camouflage from their predators? They blend in great with the red moss, white lichen and yellow-orange-red foliage of their forest habitat. And their black bellies makes them difficult to see from below!

    © Red Panda Network
    © Red Panda Network

    Help us raise awareness of International Red Panda Day 2020 — and the first-ever virtual event — by sharing your favorite fact from this article on social media or share one of our red panda fact banners by Laura Finnegan!

    Learn more red panda facts!

  • RPN Urges China to Upgrade Red Panda Conservation Status

    First revision of protected species list in 30 years provides unique opportunity.

    On Monday, a red panda was photographed eating cherries at Wawushan Nature Reserve in Meishan City of southwest China's Sichuan Province. The visit was brief but delightful for the fortunate reserve staff who witnessed the animal eat and then retreat back into the forest. 

    The timing of the red panda’s visit was interesting with the National Forestry and Grassland Administration and the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs’ recent announcement to update to their national list of endangered species and has started to collect public opinion. This is the first time the list has been reviewed and updated since 1988.

    This proposal is part of China's efforts to augment protective regulations on threatened wildlife and Red Panda Network (RPN) saw this as a critical opportunity to highlight red panda (小熊猫 Ailurus fulgens)  conservation in the country’s policymaking. 

    Last week, RPN submitted a formal recommendation to strengthen conservation of the red panda by changing its status on China’s National Protected Wildlife Species List from Class II to Class I.

    This isn’t the first time RPN — an international nonprofit organization, started in 2007; committed to the conservation of wild red pandas and their habitat through the education and empowerment of local communities  — worked to achieve policy-level change. In 2016, RPN provided technical and financial support to the Nepali government for the first national survey of red pandas, and as a result Nepal approved a National Red Panda Conservation Action Plan in 2019.

    Red panda cubs at a zoo in China.
    Red panda cubs at a zoo in China.

    The red panda is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species and included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Nepal’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 also listed this species as a protected species.

    The red panda is found in temperate broadleaved and coniferous forest with bamboo undergrowth in Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, and Nepal. There is strong evidence that the species is in decline across much of its range due to threats including habitat loss and fragmentation, predation and disease from domestic animals, climate change and poaching. In China, red pandas are found in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet, and although conservation efforts have improved in recent years the species has disappeared from large parts of its historic range.  

    A Population Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) for red pandas in China was conducted in 2012 by experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Institute of Zoology (IOZ); Rotterdam Zoo; and the IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) and Small Carnivore Specialist Group (SCSG) with support from RPN. The PHVA report recommends strengthening protection for the red panda as a high priority action item.

    Global red panda range on topographic map.
    Global red panda range on topographic map.
    Wild red panda in Nepal. © Axel Gebauer.
    Wild red panda in Nepal. © Axel Gebauer.

    More recent research from the Chinese Academy of Science proposes that the red panda may actually comprise two phylogenetically-distinct species, one found mainly in China and the other in the Himalayas. This possibility further strengthens the need for enhanced protection, since each of the new red panda species would have a much smaller population than the currently-recognized species. 

    RPN’s hope is for this recommendation is to provide usable information and guidance in China’s decisionmaking process so that red pandas can continue to eat cherries — while representing local biodiversity as an important, flagship species — in the Wawushan Nature Reserve and throughout their range in China. 

  • Human Lives Transformed Through Red Panda Conservation

    They ​are the heart of our community-based initiatives in Nepal. This is the tale of three Forest Guardians.

    It starts with Bimala Moktan.

    Bimala was 24 when she joined Red Panda Network's (RPN) national Forest Guardian (FG) team. Her uncle, Deu Prakash Tamang, had been an FG since 2006 and was among the first selected by RPN. In 2015, Tamang led a team of villagers to chase four poachers who had trapped a live red panda. They were able to free the animal from the poachers and release it back into the wild.

    Tamang later stepped down so a new generation could protect the forest, and Bimala wanted to follow in his footsteps.

    Bimala is from Prangbung village in Panchthar district, Eastern Nepal. Forests play an integral role in the lives of people in Prangbung. Villagers enter forests frequently to collect firewood for cooking, graze livestock and harvest medicinal herbs and Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). Bimala began to notice the landscape that surrounded her village was becoming deforested and degraded.

    “The need to save our forests and the wildlife that lives there is no longer deniable,” said Bimala during an interview with RPN staff.

    ​Forest Guardian, Bimala Moktan.
    ​Forest Guardian, Bimala Moktan.

    Tamang later stepped down so a new generation could protect the forest, and Bimala wanted to follow in his footsteps.

    Bimala is from Prangbung village in Panchthar district, Eastern Nepal. Forests play an integral role in the lives of people in Prangbung. Villagers enter forests frequently to collect firewood for cooking, graze livestock and harvest medicinal herbs and Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). Bimala began to notice the landscape that surrounded her village was becoming deforested and degraded.

    “The need to save our forests and the wildlife that lives there is no longer deniable,” said Bimala during an interview with RPN staff.

    Ngima Sherpa is from Dobato in Ilam district. Like Bimala, his village is remote, rural and heavily dependent on forest resources. It is also part of the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) corridor which is home to 25% of Nepal's endangered red panda population. This region in Eastern Nepal is where RPN has developed a community-based model for conservation and is establishing the PIT Red Panda Protected Forest: the world's first protected area dedicated to red panda!

    Ngima has been a member of our FG team since 2014. He's been instrumental in a number of projects including mammal camera trapping in the PIT corridor, Plant A Red Panda Home, and our GPS-satellite collar study as a red panda tracker.

    Forest Guardian, Ngima Sherpa.
    Forest Guardian, Ngima Sherpa.
    ​Red panda with GPS collar.  © James Houston/Red Panda Network
    ​Red panda with GPS collar. © James Houston/Red Panda Network

    The third FG is Menuka Bhattarai: The Firefox Guardian.

    Menuka is RPN's first female Forest Guardian and the focus of the award-winning documentary The Firefox Guardian. She is from Phawakhola village in Taplejung, a remote hilly district in Eastern Nepal and one of the major habitats of endangered red pandas.

    According to Menuka, locals didn't know what a red panda was; they threw stones to scare the animal away whenever they entered the village or were spotted in the forest. “We were unaware of the importance of this creature”.

    Forest Guardian, Menuka Bhattarai.
    Forest Guardian, Menuka Bhattarai.

    Menuka joined RPN’s Forest Guardian team about eight years ago. Back then, people would question Menuka and why she is saving an animal they considered harmful. “Poachers used to threaten me. They tried to convince me that there is no use for protecting red panda. Initially, I felt discouraged but eventually I got to know more about red pandas and wanted to work toward their conservation,”.

    She also added how she was taunted for being a girl. “They want all women to work at home. They did not believe I could be a successful Forest Guardian just because I’m a woman,” Menuka shares in The Firefox Guardian film.

    Over the years — thanks to people like you — the perception among local people towards red panda has changed. RPN's outreach programs are informing people as to why they must protect this unique, important and endangered species. Our sustainable livelihood programs are fostering red panda stewardship with viable income streams.

    Now, with over 100 members, the FG program is a powerful example of how red panda conservation can transform the lives of people who live among them.

    Bimala is now 27. In addition to her role as an FG, she also works as a member of the Jaljale Pokhari Community Forest. In Panchthar district, RPN is alleviating pressure on red panda habitat — we are protecting the forests so important to Bimala's home — through distribution of improved cooking stoves, support of sustainable herding practices and nurseries that provide medicinal herbs and NTFPs for local families.

    ​Bimala Moktan and Dipa Rai during 2020 FG training in Panchthar.
    ​Bimala Moktan and Dipa Rai during 2020 FG training in Panchthar.
    The new generation of FGs during 2020 training in Taplejung.
    The new generation of FGs during 2020 training in Taplejung.

    Ten red pandas were collared for Nepal's first-ever red panda GPS-satellite study and one of them was named "Ngima" by the research team. The name means sun and it was in honor of the FG that continues to monitor and protect the red panda's forest habitat in Ilam.

    Ngima stated: "I am very grateful to RPN for their continuous work in conserving endangered species and providing an opportunity to improve my economic level. Community-based programs like these are the future of red panda conservation."

    In Taplejung, Menuka has broken through cultural barriers as an inspiration to women in her village who are passionate about conservation. Thanks to the film The Firefox Guardian, her incredible story has been shared all over the world.

    We would say "The End" but — thanks to our dedicated supporters all over the world — this is just the beginning of people and communities coming together in Nepal to save the last of the first panda.

    red_panda_guardianV3_text

    Bimala was featured in a campaign for our Panda Guardian team of dedicated donors whose monthly support creates sustainable livelihoods for the people living on the frontlines of red panda conservation!

  • Press Release: Ten Red Pandas Collared in Nepal For Groundbreaking Study

    > Download a PDF of the Press Release

    Kathmandu, Nepal Ten wild red pandas have been equipped with GPS-satellite collars in the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) Corridor: a belt of forest that connects protected areas in Nepal and India. This is Nepal’s first red panda GPS collar study.

    Led by the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Department of Forests and Soil Conservation (DoFSC), and Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), and in collaboration with Red Panda Network (RPN), the red panda collar study took three months (September to December 2019) to complete in Sandakpur Rural Municipality of Ilam district, eastern Nepal. Six females and four males were successfully collared. 

    The collaring project was facilitated by the country’s first five-year (2019-2023) action plan for red pandas. RPN collaborated with the government of Nepal in the development of the action plan.  

    The research team consisted of officials from the Divisional Forest Office, Ilam, DoFSC, DNPWC; Purushottam Pandey, Veterinary Officer at the Directorate of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF), Janno Weerman, the Zoological Manager at Rotterdam Zoo and Red Panda EAZA Ex-situ Program Coordinator; and RPN’s Damber Bista, a Ph.D. student at the University of Queensland in Australia who is also the principal investigator of this research—as well as RPN’s Forest Guardian, conservation and research teams. 

    “This is a great milestone in red panda conservation”, says Man Bahadur Khadka, Director General of the DOFSC. “We assure the protection and conservation of this charismatic species whose survival is mainly threatened by anthropogenic factors.” 

    Paaru, the first red panda to be GPS collared in Nepal on September 22, 2019. © Sonam Tashi Lama/Red Panda Network
    Paaru, the first red panda to be GPS collared in Nepal on September 22, 2019. © Sonam Tashi Lama/Red Panda Network

    Photo 2: Paaru, the first red panda to be GPS collared in Nepal on September 22, 2019. © Sonam Tashi Lama/Red Panda Network

    Photo 1 (top of page): Mechhachha, collared on December 4, 2019. © Damber Bista/Red Panda Network/Queensland University

    With global estimates at less than 10,000 individuals surviving in the wild, the red panda is categorized as an endangered mammal on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Red pandas serve as an indicator species of their Eastern Himalayan temperate forest habitat—one of our planet’s biodiversity hotspots—as their occurrence is related to canopy cover and bamboo abundance. Red pandas are the only extant member of their taxonomic family, and according to Dr. Angela Glatston, Global Species Management Plan Convener and the Chair of RPN’s Board of Directors, if they were to become extinct that would be, at least taxonomically, “like losing the whole cat family, from lions to domestic cats.” 

    The collar study is an important component of RPN’s long-term monitoring initiative. It will not only provide critical baseline data on red panda ecology, distribution, and behavior in the wild but will also apprise stakeholders with valuable insight into landscape-level conservation efforts required to manage biological corridors. “This is a proud moment for us to have the opportunity to fulfill one of the objectives of Nepal’s Red Panda Conservation Action Plan”, comments Ang Phuri Sherpa, RPN’s Country Director in Nepal. 

    “This study aims to better understand how red pandas interact in human-dominated landscapes. The collars are programmed to record data every two hours which will be transferred via a satellite system for one year. The data will help us get a better insight into their movement and space-use pattern, social behavior, and their response to disturbances.”, says Damber Bista. 

    The study is being generously funded by Rotterdam Zoo who continues to have an essential role in red panda research and conservation. In 1978, they launched the international red panda studbook and have been coordinating it ever since. 

    ​Red panda with GPS collar.  © James Houston/Red Panda Network
    ​Red panda with GPS collar. © James Houston/Red Panda Network

    This is the first time GPS-satellite collars are being used to study red pandas in the wild. During the 1980s, the pioneer red panda biologist from Nepal, the late Pralad Yonzon, used VHF technology to study red pandas in Langtang National Park, central Nepal.

    Prior to RPN’s collar study, the GPS collars were tested with two captive red pandas at the Rotterdam Zoo to evaluate their effectiveness and any possible disruption of the animal’s movement or behavior. The collar devices were found to be effective with no disruption. 

    “Rotterdam Zoo finds it very important that in-situ and ex-situ conservationists work together to protect the red panda and their habitat. Part of this cooperation is the GPS collaring research. Our zoo is supporting this research because the results of this research will give us more insight into the ecology of the species that helps us to take more specific measurements to protect the red panda and their natural habitat,” says Janno Weerman, the Zoological Manager at the Rotterdam Zoo and Red Panda EAZA Ex-situ Program Coordinator. Janno was also involved in RPN’s collar study in 2019 where he primarily trained Nepali researchers on the safe handling of the animal. 

    The collars provide exceptional data on the movement and habitat use of the red pandas. RPN’s Forest Guardians also use VHF tracking devices and utilize camera traps to collect additional data. The red pandas were named Paaru, Dolma, Chintapu, Mechhachha, Bhumo, Senehang, Ngima, Brian, Ninamma, and Praladdevi by local people (including Forest Guardians); the names represent culture, landscape, language, and ethnicity of the region. The name Praladdevi was given in tribute to Pralad Yonzon.

    RPN is working with Divisional Forest Offices and more than sixty Community Forests with active conservation programs in ten districts in Nepal. 

    For further information contact: Madhuri Karki Thapa, Under Secretary, Department of Forests and Soil Conservation, Government of Nepal, Phone: +977 1 4221231, Email: madhureethapa@gmail.com

    Sonam Tashi Lama, Program Coordinator, Mobile: +977 9841843968, Email: sonam.lama@redpandanetwork.or

    Print and broadcast media contact:

    Terrance Fleming (877) 854-2391 Ext. 101, terrance@redpandanetwork.org

    Red Panda Network protects wild red pandas and their habitat through the education and empowerment of local communities. Learn more about our work at www.redpandanetwork.org.

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  • Red Panda Conservation Scholarships for Education

    Poverty creates challenges for students in Nepal but Red Panda Network supporters — led by a dedicated team of monthly donors — are making a difference with important education scholarships.

    According to UNICEF,  more than a third of Nepal’s 12.6 million children live below the national poverty line. 

    While significant progress has been made in Nepal’s education system — enrolment rates are 97% for primary school-age children and most communities in Nepal have a school — poverty can be a substantial deterrent to children excelling in school and advancing to secondary school and beyond. 

    Kidasha says that 45% of children in Nepal drop out before they reach secondary school.  

    Poverty contributes to dropouts among disadvantaged families who often need their children to work instead of attending school. Another obstacle for these students is the cost of school supplies. 

    Recipients of Red Panda Conservation Scholarships for Education in Eastern Nepal.
    Recipients of Red Panda Conservation Scholarships for Education in Eastern Nepal.

    The Red Panda Conservation Scholarships for Education program was started in 2019 to provide financial support and necessary school supplies to the children and siblings of Forest Guardians, as well as students from partner schools with Roots & Shoots Groups. 

    Scholarship recipients are selected based on merit by a committee of teachers (as well as a local leader and community members) and are available to students in grades six and seven. We distributed 94 scholarships in 2019: 45 students from the Panchthar, Ilam and Taplejung (PIT) corridor of eastern Nepal and 49 students in western Nepal’s Kalikot, Jumla, and Jajarkot districts. 

    One of these students is Sarmila Pariyar, a 13-year-old from Mahawai Rural Municipality of Kalikot district, western Nepal. Sarmila is from a low-income family where her mother is involved in cultivating crops and raising livestock and her father is a blacksmith. 

    Sarmila is a sixth-grade student at Shree Dev Secondary School in Mahawai Rural Municipality. She spends most of her time looking after her two younger sisters and helping her mother with household chores. She loves Deuada, which are indigenous songs and dance from western Nepal. Sarmila first became engaged in red panda conservation through her school's eco-club activities

    13-year-old Sarmila Pariyar from Mahawai Rural Municipality.
    13-year-old Sarmila Pariyar from Mahawai Rural Municipality.

     "All of the eco-club members, including me, relish to write poems, stories, essays and draw art to portray the importance of conservation on the red panda bulletin," shared Sarmila during an interview with Red Panda Network (RPN) Conservation Officer, Dinesh Ghale. 

    The Red Panda Bulletin Sarmila is referring to is part of RPN’s youth outreach and education initiatives. We work with students of Roots and Shoots Groups and eco-clubs who publish a Red Panda Bulletin every three months. They collect stories, poems, songs, and artworks related to red pandas (and other wildlife) from other students under the supervision of a teacher and publish them in the bulletin. The goal of this activity was to educate and engage students in wildlife conservation. 

    "Undoubtedly, the perception of wildlife conservation among students has changed for the better in recent years," said Sarmila. “I will surely be involved in future conservation events by RPN.” 

    Being born into a poor family, Sarmila’s family is not able to support her education. She is very grateful to RPN for the scholarship and for providing important educational materials such as notebooks, pens, geometry sets, and book bags.

     “This is like our festival gift," added Sarmila with a cheeky grin.

    Eco-club during education activities.
    Eco-club during education activities.
    RPN distributed 94 scholarships in 2019!
    RPN distributed 94 scholarships in 2019!

    RPN’s goal is 116 scholarships in 2020. 

    The education scholarship program is an example of RPN’s multi-tiered approach to conservation that enhances local livelihoods while educating communities and fostering red panda stewardship. These programs are made possible by RPN members, partners, and a dedicated group of monthly supporters we proudly call Panda Guardians.

    "The scholarship program is new for the students of our project area and it has helped them to be motivated and engaged in red panda conservation. The program is highly appreciated by the local council members. I see this as the start for creating future conservation leaders who will take responsibility for protecting the environment", commented Sunil Banatawa to Dinesh. Sunil is the Executive Director of the Deep Jyoti Youth Club (DJYC); DJYC is our field partner in Panchthar district of eastern Nepal.  

    "Supporting the People Among the Pandas" with Forest Guardian, Prem Sherpa, by Laura Finnegan.
  • A Trip to the Zoo Becomes a Boon to Red Pandas Worldwide

    An Animal Park and an Endowment Fund Team Up for Conservation.

    When visitors to Parc Animalier d’Auvergne, a zoo in south-central France, paid admission in 2019, they not only paid to see the animals, they contributed to wildlife conservation.

    Thanks to a joint project called Euro Nature, Parc Animalier d’Auvergne and the endowment fund La Passerelle Conservation were able to surpass their fundraising objective for the year. Red Panda Network (RPN) was among the beneficiaries of this bounty, receiving a total of 19,477.50€ (more than $21,000.00) from both organizations in December 2019.

    "Our 2019 goal was to collect 100,000€ to support in situ conservation projects such as Red Panda Network,” said Laura de Cazanove, a French Civic Service volunteer serving as project manager and communications officer for La Passerelle Conservation, via email. “We were very happy to achieve this goal and even surpass it with a total of more than 103,000€ collected! We would never have had the opportunity to reach this amount without the launching of ‘Euro Nature’, which is one euro for conservation collected on each entry ticket sold by the Parc Animalier d'Auvergne since February 2019.” The Euro Nature initiative represented 63% of the total funds raised.

    "Their support is critical in a year that is uncertain for nonprofits,” said Terrance Fleming, development manager for Red Panda Network. “La Passerelle Conservation and Parc Animalier d’Auvergne continue to demonstrate their commitment to conservation, and we are truly thankful for that."

    Due to Euro Nature’s success, two wildlife parks in southern France have decided to take part in the initiative, which will help La Passerelle Conservation grow its donations and increase support for other conservation programs, de Cazanove said.

    auvergne-2019atteint-2

    According to its website, Parc Animalier d’Auvergne donates 20,000€ each year to La Passerelle Conservation. The endowment fund, itself, is the fruit of a collaboration between the zoo and French former professional rugby player Julien Pierre. Founded in 2013, the fund supports more than a dozen local and international conservation projects, including the Snow Leopard Trust, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and Free the Bears.

    Upon receiving its first red pandas in 2015, Parc Animalier d’Auvergne wanted to link their arrival with an in situ conservation project, de Cazanove said. “Red Panda Network has a very serious conservation project of this species in its natural environment and has been strongly recommended by other zoos that support it. Parc Animalier d'Auvergne and La Passerelle Conservation have decided to support them due to this extremely good reputation and its actions in wildlife.”

    That support is likely to continue, as Parc Animalier d’Auvergne and La Passerelle Conservation have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with RPN until the year 2022, de Cazanove said. “The team will be delighted to continue supporting the association and renew the contract with them for years to come.”

    Funds will support RPN's anti-poaching networks and other community conservation programs in Western Nepal.
    Funds will support RPN's anti-poaching networks and other community conservation programs in Western Nepal.

    Such partnerships were made possible through the increase in donations, memberships and visitors to Parc Animalier d’Auvergne in recent years. That, in turn, was the result of one of the things La Passerelle does well: outreach. “One of our major strengths is our widespread communication on social media and through our website, allowing us to reach a greater audience, from all generations and beyond borders,” de Cazanove said. “We often interact with our community online, share information on our conservation projects and encourage contributions.”

    La Passerelle Conservation and Parc Animalier d’Auvergne are depending on their strengths as they face the challenges ahead. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the zoo has been closed since March 15 and will remain closed until at least July 14, as reported here. The zoo, itself, is asking for donations on its website, and park director Pascal Damois has publicly expressed concern about the park’s financial future.

    “La Passerelle Conservation and Parc Animalier d’Auvergne strive to maintain their financial objective for the year 2020, but this crisis context constrained the French zoo to cease its activity since the middle of March 2020,” said de Cazanove. “Many events organized by both the Parc and La Passerelle Conservation were cancelled.”

    Others have been postponed. The zoo planned to have the first “Championnat de France de Shifumi” (Shifumi French Championship) to commemorate the first birthday of its red panda Shifumi in June. “Shifumi” is one of several French names for the Rock, Paper, Scissors game. 

    The first red panda born in Auvergne animal park was named Shifumi. / © Marie Demoulin
    The first red panda born in Auvergne animal park was named Shifumi. / © Marie Demoulin

    The event is now scheduled to take place in September to coincide with International Red Panda Day. Registration fees collected will go to La Passerelle Conservation for its 2020 support of RPN. “We sincerely hope that we will be able to keep this event,” de Cazanove said. “Everything will depend on the health measures in force in France at that time.”

    Despite these obstacles, the two organizations continue to plan for the future. “The year 2020 is likely to be a milestone for the future of La Passerelle Conservation,” de Cazanove said. “Notwithstanding the Covid-19 situation, plans are to consolidate Euro Nature, especially with a long-term establishment of additional partnerships with major groups and companies in the future.”

    Achieving this objective would allow La Passerelle Conservation and Parc Animalier d’Auvergne to pursue even more ambitious goals, such as creating a full-time position at La Passerelle Conservation, she said. “The main objective remains to sustain financial aid for conservation programs and/or support existing ones as intended.”

    Dawn Peterson
    Writing and Communications Volunteer
    Red Panda Network