Stop the Illegal Red Panda Trade

On January 13th, 2018, six red pandas were rescued from wildlife smugglers in Laos. It is believed they were headed for the black market pet trade.

This is the biggest seizure of live red pandas to-date.

In Nepal, the red panda is a protected species, but their numbers are dwindling as poaching and illegal trade of red pandas and their parts is on the rise. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of Nepal states that 90% of the nation's cases related to wildlife crime goes unreported.

Red Panda Network is fighting back. We are continuing to build an anti-poaching network—made up of local stakeholders including Forest Guardians—who patrol red panda habitat, remove traps and snares, educate locals on the importance of red panda conservation, and report poaching activity to enforcement agencies. Thanks to the network's hard work we have witnessed a 60% decrease in trap and snare presence in the PIT corridor of Eastern Nepal since 2015. 

The distribution of red pandas and their parts move from east to west in the mountain forests, with Kathmandu being the major hub for illegal trade. In collaboration with enforcement agencies, we have been able to apprehend local poachers and middlemen who are involved in collection and transportation.

Armed Police Forces during capacity building training
Armed Police Forces during capacity building training

Campaign video for #NoPandaPets by Lucia Martinez.

But this is where the trail goes cold. We have little information on who the black market suppliers are and where these red pandas are being exported to. In order to combat the illegal red panda trade, we must strategically confront both sides of the industry: the supply and demand

On Saturday, September 15th, 2018 — International Red Panda Day — RPN launched the largest and most comprehensive effort to stop the illegal red panda trade. Our mission is to reduce the supply and demand by:

1. Exposing the illegal red panda supply chain.
2. Educating the public on why wild red pandas must remain wild and reduce the illegal trade demand. 

Exposing the supply chain will require a massive on-the-ground investigation by our anti-poaching network. This will be a multi-tiered approach, that utilizes sophisticated technologies, and provides critical information on who the buyers and traders are in Kathmandu and other export centers.

Reducing the demand will also require a large-scale operation. But it will take place on social media.


Social media has become a major platform for illegal wildlife trade. Red pandas have become a popular online attraction and a number of videos of this cute cuddly-looking animal have gone viral. While this popularity has helped us raise red panda awareness, there have been some undesirable outcomes. Red pandas are smaller than many charismatic species and appear to have a calm, nonaggressive temperament which likely appeals to buyers of illegal exotic pets.

Our social media awareness campaign, #NoPandaPets, will educate people around the world why red pandas do not make good pets and why the future of the species depends on wild red pandas remaining in the wild.

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