The global red panda population has declined by 50% over the last 20 years and there may be as few as 2,500 remaining in the wild.
Habitat Loss is The #1 Threat
Rapid human population growth in the Eastern Himalayas is causing deforestation and the degradation and fragmentation of red panda habitat. Habitat is being fragmented by development projects including roads, hydro-projects, electric transmission lines, and mining, as well as settlement and agricultural conversions, and anthropogenic forest fires.
Livestock Herding is a major driver of red panda habitat destruction. Herders cut down trees to maintain sheds and collect fuelwood from the forest. Unsustainable herding practices degrade habitat quality as livestock graze in the forest and eat and trample bamboo and other red panda food species. An increasing trend toward dairies in red panda range has fueled the demand for fodder (bamboo) and firewood.
Free-roaming Dogs and Disease
Free-roaming dogs and disease are major contributors to red panda mortality. Herders in red panda range have dogs that protect their livestock from potential predators. They also kill red pandas. Seven species of gastrointestinal parasites have been reported in red pandas. The canine distemper virus–often present in non-vaccinated dogs–is highly infectious and always fatal to red pandas.
Climate change is causing more frequent droughts, snow falls, and floods, all resulting in shifting vegetation zones in the Himalayas.
These threats are compounded by:
Weak Law Enforcement, Political Instability, and Low Coordination among Stakeholders.
Inadequate staffing and pay of rangers and enforcement agencies in Protected Areas and Community Forests, combined with difficult terrain and inaccessibility of red panda habitat, ensures minimal protection from poaching and habitat destruction. This is augmented by complicated geopolitics among red panda range countries.
Low Red Panda Awareness
Many people living in red panda habitat are not aware of red pandas or their importance to the Himalayan broadleaf forest ecoregion.
Insufficient Sustainable Livelihood Opportunities
lead to increased dependence on forest exploitation to meet basic needs.