• Press Release: Ecotrip travelers see increasing numbers of red pandas in Nepal.

    Red panda cubs during December 2019 Eco Zoo Trip. Photo: Sarah Jones.
    Red panda cubs during December 2019 Eco Zoo Trip. Photo: Sarah Jones.

    Download the full press release here.

    Good news can be hard to come by for people working to save threatened and endangered species. That’s why the Red Panda Network (RPN) is delighted to share some heartening news worth celebrating: In 2019, there was a record-high number of red pandas seen on RPN’s ecotrip to Nepal. 

    Since 2011, RPN has offered ecotrips for travelers who want to immerse themselves in the world of red pandas; experience the culture, natural beauty, and biodiversity of Nepal; and take part in community-based conservation. 

    Ecotrips support RPN’s conservation efforts and give local communities added incentives to help preserve red pandas and curb habitat loss, which is the biggest threat to red pandas living in Nepal. RPN uses a multi-tiered conservation approach. Of these efforts, ecotourism is emerging as the most effective way to support initiatives, such as Plant a Red Panda Home, that protect and restore the Himalayan forest that red pandas need to survive. 

    For red pandas, the payoff of RPN’s ecotrips to Nepal is big. What began as one to three red panda sightings per trip, has increased over time. The success rate for seeing red pandas has been 100 percent for RPN ecotrippers since 2017, and eight red pandas were spotted in 2018. Then in 2019, a record-high of ten red pandas—a total of nine cubs (from different litters) and one female red panda—were seen on a 12-day trip. 

    The increased number of red pandas seen by ecotrippers, combined with reports of more red pandas and wildlife seen in habitat reforested with the support of ecotrip funds, strongly suggests that red panda numbers in Nepal are on the rise. 

    RPN offers a variety of ecotrips for small groups of travelers. To ensure that red pandas aren't disturbed during ecotrips, RPN follows strict red panda tracking protocols which include no trips during mating and birthing seasons and avoiding repeated visits to a red panda site. 

    Another tangible benefit of RPN ecotrips is the huge and positive impact it has on the local people and their country’s economy. RPN’s ecotourism funds RPN field research, habitat protection, outreach programs and sustainable livelihood-related activities. Yet, in terms of overall impact of ecotrip funds, the biggest benefit is to the local Himalayan communities. 

    Healthy red panda populations need to benefit the local people for conservation efforts to succeed. Thanks to RPN’s red panda-based tourism, local communities are able to flourish alongside the increasing red panda populations, so communities are supportive and actively engaged in RPN’s conservation program. Ecotourism gives local residents additional ways to make a living, and tourism-based activities, such as providing hospitality services and acting as nature guides, are the primary source of income for many Nepalese people.

    Last but not least, RPN’s ecotrips benefit the ecotrippers themselves. Tawnni Jensen, a traveler on RPN’s 2019 ecotrip, described the trip saying: “I would not have traded this experience for anything! Being among the wonderful people of Nepal and the amazing diversity of the Himalayan foothills was incredible! And ten pandas! Seeing these amazing animals, and seeing signs of a growing population, was unbelievable!”

    For lucky travelers like Jensen—and possibly you—a RPN ecotrip is the adventure of a lifetime! We hope you join us for an RPN ecotrip soon

    Holly Alyssa MacCormick
    Writing and Communications Volunteer
    Red Panda Network

    For further information contact:

    Terrance Fleming, Development Manager, terrance@redpandanetwork.org

    Learn more about RPN ecotrips

  • “Winging” It for Red Pandas


    Jason's passion for red pandas is boundless as he takes to the skies to save them.

    Like many Red Panda Network (RPN) supporters, Jason Phelan has a fondness for red pandas.

    Their cuteness and vulnerability led him to first adopt one more than 20 years ago at Dudley Zoological Gardens in the West Midlands, England, and he has continued to adopt over the years at various zoos throughout the United Kingdom. Now based in Ireland, Phelan participates in Dublin Zoo’s animal adoption program.

    In June, he created the Facebook page @ailurusfulgensredpanda to use his photography to raise awareness of the species’ endangered status.

    But next summer in Ireland, Phelan will take his red panda devotion to even greater heights—literally.

    That’s when he will be strapped to the top wing of a 1940s-era Boeing Stearman biplane traveling at more than 130 km/hr to raise money for RPN.

    The wing walk will be the culmination of several events Phelan has planned for 2020, including a red panda meet-and-greet at a UK zoo in March, and a fundraiser featuring live music and prizes in April.

    Thanks to the sponsorship of Millennium Promotions Ltd. and Executive Helicopters, all money raised will go directly to RPN. AeroSuperBatics Ltd. will provide the pilot and the plane.

    Jason Phelan receives sponsorship to support his fundraising efforts.
    Jason Phelan receives sponsorship to support his fundraising efforts.
    Breitling Wingwalkers

    “With this one, I wanted to create quite a buzz,” Phelan said in a phone interview from his office in Dublin. A GoPro camera attached to the plane will capture the hair-raising adventure. “This is a moment I want to remember when I’m 70 or 80,” he said.

    In the early 20th century, the first wing walkers created their own sensation, performing such death-defying stunts as playing tennis on the wing of a plane mid-flight and walking from the wing of one plane to the wing of another while both aircraft were in the air.

    Phelan, who said he’s no daredevil, won’t do anything quite that dramatic, and he won’t actually walk on the wings. Instead, he will stay securely in place during the approximately 20-minute flight that will include stomach-churning aerobatics, such as loop-the-loops and barrel rolls.

    As a freelance air show photojournalist, and an aviation professional and enthusiast, Phelan is a fixture at air shows in the UK and Ireland, and he said one of the biggest attractions is the wing walking formation team.

    So wing walking for charity was a no-brainer. “If I just approached the media, I don’t think I would get the same reaction I am now,” he said. “The publicity it’s going to generate is exactly what I am going for.”

    Although his Facebook page has, to date, more than 1,300 followers, Phelan said it’s not enough to attract the audience he wants to reach, which includes people who don’t know much about red pandas. “It’s the fact that I used to talk about them, and people said, ‘Red pandas, what are they?’“

    Dublin Zoo.
    Dublin Zoo.

    Despite being voted Ireland’s favorite zoo animal in at least one poll Dublin Zoo conducted, red pandas still seem to be an obscure animal, Phelan said. “There’s obviously not enough information out there related to the red panda.”

    But once people know about them, they remember them, he said. Phelan was a frequent visitor to Dublin Zoo this year, which gave him ample opportunity to observe people’s reactions to red pandas. “Everyone always says one word: cute.”

    The only thing that rivals Phelan’s love for red pandas is his fervor for flight. “I caught the aviation bug at a very early age,” he said. His parents took him to his first air show when he was only 18 months old, and he attended the Biggin Hill airfield show for 34 years straight.

    Now 47, Phelan is an administration supervisor in flight operations for the Irish Aviation Authority. Through the contacts he’s made at work, he’s had the chance to fly in a variety of aircraft, including a 1930s Tiger Moth, an aerobatic EXTRA 300 and a 1940s Harvard/Texan. 

    After crossing paths with members of the AeroSuperBatics team, Phelan made his first wing walk, “a straight and level flight” in 2007. Two years later, he completed a three-day aerobatic challenge, with pilots flying him across 11 counties from seven airfields in England, and raised nearly £7,000 (about $9,000) for the UK aviation charity fly2help. By the end of the challenge, which took a year of planning, Phelan had completed 370 aerobatic maneuvers. And not one sick bag was used.

    To prepare for next summer’s wing walk, Phelan mostly is just walking. He makes the 9-km round-trip journey to work five days a week, weather permitting. “I think it’s just a case of mental preparedness and making sure my body is ready for the g-force strains and stresses,” he said.

    After the adrenaline rush from his 2007 wing walk wore off, Phelan could feel wear and tear in his arms and legs, almost as if he’d run a marathon. The pulling of positive and negative g-forces places massive pressure on the body, and it’s difficult to breathe, he said. “There is a saying, ‘You can tell when a wing walker has had a good flight ’cause when they smile, you can see flies on their teeth.’"

    Jason Phelan.
    Jason Phelan.

    Aside from keeping him physically fit for the flight, Phelan’s walks are among several behavioral changes he’s making to offset the carbon footprint of the event. His other efforts include: making a personal donation to plant trees in Ireland and the UK; spending one minute less in the shower to reduce water consumption; and decreasing his use of the clothes dryer by hanging his wash on the line.

    When Phelan arrives on the airfield next summer, his training will consist of a safety talk and a flight plan discussion. That’s it.

    He has no pre-flight jitters because he knows and trusts the AeroSuperBatics pilots. “I know they know what they’re doing, and I wouldn’t risk doing anything that would jeopardize my life.”

    His parents, who, along with his three-year-old nephew, will be among the spectators, also are optimistic about the upcoming flight, Phelan said. “They’ve been surrounded by aviation, and they know my passion for aviation.”


    While Phelan and his parents are confident in what he’s about to do, his colleagues are less assured. Some think he is “stone mad,” Phelan said. “So even people in the aviation industry are like, ‘No, you wouldn’t get me doing that.’”

    And even Phelan has his limits.

    An early interest in becoming a pilot ended at 18 following discussions with the Royal Air Force and the viewing of a training video. Phelan also has no interest in skydiving. “I trust an aircraft to take me up and take me down, so why would I jump out of a plane that’s going to land 10 minutes later?”

    To see Phelan’s red panda photography or to learn more about his aerobatic wing walking flight for RPN, visit his Facebook pages, @ailurusfulgensredpanda and @awfs2020, respectively. If you’re interested in donating, visit his JustGiving page.

    Dawn Peterson
    Writing and Communications Volunteer
    Red Panda Network

  • Ten Red Pandas in a Rhododendron Tree


    During the 12 days of an ecotrip travelers were able to see, ten red pandas in a rhododendron tree.

    Well, that's not exactly how it happened—participants were actually on an Eco Zoo Trip and the pandas weren't all in one tree—but please sing along!

    On the first day of the ecotrip travelers were able to see,
    Participants of November 2019 Eco Zoo Trip arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal.
    Nepal's capital, Kathmandu city. 

    Eight travelers, representing zoos and conservation groups around the world—including Auckland Zoo, Animals Asia Foundation and Hogle Zoo—joined trip leader and former red panda zookeeper, Sarah Jones, for what truly ended up being a trip of a lifetime. The group was also joined by a professor from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.

    On the second day of the ecotrip travelers were able to see,
    Ecotrippers at Swayambhunath Temple, or "Monkey Temple," in Kathmandu.
    Swayambhunath temple and lots of monkeys.
    On the third day of the ecotrip travelers were able to see, breathtaking views from a jeep and a plane to a house of tea. 

    Ecotrippers then began their long journey east to red panda habitat in the Himalayan foothills of Ilam district. This can take two days of traveling by plane and jeep, climbing a total of over 2,000 meters in elevation (up to 3,600 meters; Kathmandu is at 1,400 meters).

    Their first stop was the beautiful and world-famous tea gardens of Ilam district where they enjoyed homestay amenities in a teahouse.

    On the fourth day of the ecotrip travelers were able to be

    1 (5)
    among protected forests and hospitality. 

    The group arrives in core red panda habitat and are welcomed by Choyataar Community Forest Group members!

    On the fifth through tenth day of the ecotrip they were able to see, 
    1 (6)
    incredible Himalayan biodiversity. 

    The group spent the next five days trekking through cloud forests—led by Red Panda Network (RPN) Forest Forests—in search of red panda.

    1 (7)
    Red panda cubs during December 2019 Eco Zoo Trip. Photo: Sarah Jones.
    Red panda cubs during December 2019 Eco Zoo Trip. Photo: Sarah Jones.
    During the twelve days of the ecotrip travelers were able to see, nine cubs and one mother in red panda country.

    In November of 2018, ecotrippers experienced the most successful ecotrip in RPN history with 8 red panda sightings. Participants of the November 19-30, 2019 Eco Zoo Trip had ten red panda sightings; nine cubs and one red panda mother!

    This is unprecedented and is a strong indicator of increasing red panda numbers and the impact our conservation programs in Nepal. An achievement we could have never reached without our wonderful supporters!

    1 (10) (1)

    Interested in joining a Himalayan adventure to see red pandas in the wild?

    Want more? Watch this short video of the November 2019 Eco Zoo Trip! >>

  • 5 Reasons We Should Save the Red Panda this Holiday Season

    red panda_snow

    They may be a smaller flagship species but the conservation of red pandas makes a huge impact.

    There's a lot of sad news out there. The destruction of the rainforest, a rapidly changing climate; it's easy to feel defeated and unsure about our planet's future.

    But Red Panda Network (RPN) is determined not to let that discourage us or slow us down. We implore you to join us in making this holiday season about solutions and small victories—and the reasons why we must keep fighting.

    Our community-based programs are fostering red panda stewardship among Himalayan communities—and thanks to RPN supporters around the world—we're witnessing encouraging results.

    This is something to celebrate. We hope it will lift your holiday spirits.

    RPN also knows that the battle is far from over. Human populations continue to rise in red panda range and poverty, along with insufficient livelihood opportunities, are driving threats such as habitat loss and poaching.

    So why must we keep fighting? Sure red pandas are cute, appear cuddly and are often a favorite attraction at a local zoo. But why is it so important that we save red pandas from extinction? There are many reasons why and here are five of them:

    1. They are unique⁠—very unique Red pandas are unlike any animal and discovered 50 years before the giant panda, saving them will help preserve our world’s natural heritage.

    Photo by Mathias Appel.
    Photo by Mathias Appel.

    2. Combat Global Climate Change The forests where red pandas live are the lungs of South Asia. If these forests are intact and function properly they can help to combat global climate change and ensure a healthy life for the people, animals, and plants of South Asia.

    3. Preserve the Ecological Integrity of South Asia The mountain chains of the Eastern Himalaya and parts of southwestern China — where red pandas are found — are the origin of South Asia’s three largest rivers: the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Yangtse. These rivers provide water for half of China, northern and northwestern India, Nepal, Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Bhutan, and Myanmar.

    Red panda habitat in Eastern Nepal.
    Red panda habitat in Eastern Nepal.

    4. Protect a Global Biodiversity Hotspot Red pandas are a flagship species and indicator of the overall health of the vibrant Eastern Himalayan forests. Conserving them means habitat for many species will be protected, as well as a landscape that supports over 500 million people.

    5. More red pandas = more trees The red panda is are a tree-dwelling species (arboreal). They live alongside other threatened wildlife, as well as human communities, all of whom depend on forests for their survival. But red panda conservation also has a global impact: If we protect red panda habitat, help to mitigate deforestation—or restore degraded or clear-cut forests—we are providing our planet with the many benefits of trees including cleaner air, cleaner oceans, and reduced runoff.

    5. More red pandas = more trees The red panda is are a tree-dwelling species (arboreal). They live alongside other threatened wildlife, as well as human communities, all of whom depend on forests for their survival. But red panda conservation also has a global impact: If we protect red panda habitat, help to mitigate deforestation—or restore degraded or clear-cut forests—we are providing our planet with the many benefits of trees including cleaner air, cleaner oceans, and reduced runoff.

    Wild red pandas in Eastern Nepal.
    Wild red pandas in Eastern Nepal.

    So please remember these 5 reasons as we forge ahead to save our planet and the many wonderful species we share it with, big or small.

    Check out our new 'Why Save the Red Panda?' infographic and don't forget to share it with your friends!

    Happy holidays!

  • Help RPN Plant A Red Panda Home!

    Wild red panda in RPN's project area in Eastern Nepal.

    Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday! We need your help to restore critical red panda habitat in Nepal.

    This holiday season your donations to the Red Panda Network (RPN) will go directly towards Plant A Red Panda Home, an RPN conservation campaign to reverse the biggest threat to red pandas—habitat loss due to deforestation.

    Thanks to our First Panda Challengers, all donations to RPN on #GivingTuesday on December 3rd will be DOUBLED until midnight! Your donations this holiday season will directly support the Plant a Red Panda Home campaign.

    Forests are essential for the survival of red pandas. Yet, rapid human population growth and human activities have reduced nearly 70 percent of Nepal’s red panda habitat to disconnected patches of land. These fragile ecosystems could disappear altogether as they lie outside of Nepal’s protected areas.

    Deforestation in Nepal caused by livestock herders.
    Deforestation in Nepal caused by livestock herders.
    The total area of barren land here is 654 hectares.
    The total area of barren land here is 654 hectares.

    RPN has identified 32 hectares of key habitat in these fragmented areas that could be replanted, protected, and restored to create a corridor linking fragmented red panda habitat. With your support, we can restore and protect our goal of—a minimum—of 32 hectares of critical habitat for red pandas in Nepal which will create a wildlife corridor linking these patches of land.

    Your donation to RPN will have a direct and measurable impact on habitat loss, which is the number one threat to red pandas in Nepal. 

    Thanks to you, since 2016, RPN has reforested an estimated 32.7 hectares of degraded red panda habitat with a total of approximately 20,000 saplings, local trees, and bamboo species. These efforts are already aiding local wildlife. According to monitoring by RPN Forest Guardians (FGs) and camera trap surveys, red pandas and other endangered wildlife are now flourishing in the regions of forest restored by RPN.

    Restoring forest in Nepal isn’t easy, RPN Country Director Ang Phuri Sherpa told me. RPN’s reforestation efforts have been successful, in part, because of RPN’s multi-step approach to reforestation, which involves and educates the local community.

    Participants of conservation workshop for herders in Kalikot district, Western Nepal.
    Participants of conservation workshop for herders in Kalikot district, Western Nepal.

    “It’s not only how much land you planted,” Sherpa told me, “it’s how many saplings that were planted survived.”

    Sapling survival depends on a lot of different factors. The plant species in red panda habitats have differing growth rates that are affected by elevation, rainfall, and grazing by animals, Sherpa explained. Once the right species of plants are selected for the land to be replanted, saplings are carried to the (often) remote deforested regions in bamboo baskets. 

    Saplings grow best when planted in the rainy season, which can make the path to the planting site a muddy and slippery trip. Once the saplings are planted they need to be protected and monitored, Sherpa explained. Because RPN Forest Guardians monitor the newly-planted saplings, they know that livestock (e.g., cows and goats), buffalo, and yak attempt to eat the fresh shoots. “That’s why fences are so important,” Sherpa told me. 

    Your donations to RPN this holiday season will directly fund efforts to plant native trees in deforested areas, install fencing to protect newly-planted saplings, and purchase land in areas of critical red panda habitat in eastern Nepal so it can be converted to community (protected) land and replanted.

    FG planting a tree in Western Nepal.
    FG planting a tree in Western Nepal.

    Gifts totaling:

    • $1,000 enables RPN to plant trees in one hectare of critical red panda habitat in Eastern Nepal.
    • $2,700 purchases one hectare of private land for reforestation in Eastern Nepal.
    • $1,000 enables RPN to plant and fence trees in one hectare of critical red panda habitat in Western Nepal.

    Thanks to our amazing supporters, we have already raised $22,411 (+$22,411 FPC match), bringing us to $44,822 and nearly half-way to our goal! With your help, we can raise $100,000 to Plant A Red Panda Home in Nepal. Your tax-deductible, year-end gift will automatically be doubled, thanks to First Panda Challengers—a generous group of donors who have agreed to match funds raised through this campaign—your gift will have double the impact for the first panda.

    Help us reach the summit to Plant A Red Panda Home!
    110% funded

    Holly Alyssa MacCormick
    Writing and Communications Volunteer
    Red Panda Network

    Looking for a great holiday gift?

    Give the gift of conservation by symbolically adopting one of six red pandas in our project area in Eastern Nepal. Adopt-A-Panda for $50 or more and you'll receive (via postal mail) one of our new adoption packages which includes an official certificate, infosheet, and a plush or calendar ($100+ can choose a large plush filled with 100% recycled water bottles!).
    Adoption package with large plush - $100