It is exciting to return back in Taplejung headquarter from Kalikhola field trip with lot of excitation and full of energy. It was a nice and successful field trip in terms of red panda sightings and community consultation.
We, 4 peoples were in survey team including Tulsi R. Subedi -Red Panda Ecologist, Chandra Limbu- Field Technician, Ratna Baniya and Tek Bahadur Baniya- forest guardians. We were surveying transect 3 of Block number 6 in Chawakhola Community Forest (Hereafter Kalikhola Women Community forest). During the course of field survey Tek Bahadur Baniya called me sir, sir…….. here is red panda. We rushed towards him and we saw one adult red panda was sleeping on tree branch. It was really cute……….., quickly I captured few snaps on my camera and measured the altitude and GPS location. It was on 2555 m elevation from sea level. On the basis of field marks and other characters we guessed it was adult female.
Our forest Guardian Ratna Baniya Said ”Now a days red pandas are in lower altitude” But why? There is a reason we got from the survey – there are two species of bamboo in our field site. One species is confined to higher altitude (above 2800 m) and next is on lower altitude. In higher elevation of red panda range in Taplejung natural death of whole bamboo took place because once they bloom, develop seed and they die. The whole regeneration process to develop a new habitat will took at least 10 years. In this way the red panda habitat is shrinking and our main aim should be to protecting an existing habitat.
I have also collected the data of raptors in the area and incidence of raptor predation on red panda was conformed because we saw part of red panda hide on the open forest area killed by Mountain Hawk eagle or Golden eagle (they were encountered near by this area). I found risk of red panda predation by raptors could increase in this area. Livestock farming is the main occupation of local communities of red panda range and they have cattle herding station inside red panda habitat which lead to forest destruction. This type of culture could create lot of open forest. Open forest is the suitable habitat for raptors to find their prey.
So our aim should be to create and declare red panda conservation area in such type of “Hot-Spots”. I hope from our continuous hard work, support from our donors and other partner organization we will see it one day.