We implemented the world's first community-based red panda monitoring program and completed Nepal's first national red panda survey.
In 2016, Red Panda Network (RPN) collaborated with the Government of Nepal to complete the nation's first national red panda population and habitat survey. The study expanded 35 districts and confirmed the existence of red pandas in 23 districts and 7 protected areas, as well as provided important information on habitat quality, deforestation and climate change throughout Nepal's red panda range.
We also worked with the Government of Nepal's Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation to develop the world's first protocol for community-based red panda field survey and monitoring.
In 2007, RPN created Project Punde Kundo, the world’s first community-based red panda population monitoring program. Since then, we have trained 150 local people as citizen scientists in red panda survey and monitoring techniques; out of the total, over 100 are members of our Forest Guardian team.
Our Forest Guardian (FG) program is the centerpiece of our community-based initiatives. They monitor and patrol red panda habitat four times a year and report population and habitat information — direct sightings of red panda, indirect signs such as pellets, footprints and foraging marks; as well as natural and anthropogenic threats — to our biologists and field staff. The result is baseline data that allows us to implement science-based conservation programs and evaluate the effectiveness of our programs.
Ongoing monitoring is beneficial in documenting the presence and establishing an index of red panda population in their habitat. The goal of this monitoring program is to gain insight into the status of red panda and how its population is changing over time under the pressure of anthropogenic activities. During monitoring activities, the FGs also remove snares targeted for red panda and other endangered wildlife, and in critical cases, they coordinate with representatives of the local Community Forests and Division Forest Office for effective law enforcement.
Our community-based approach promotes red panda stewardship. As community members are involved in the research and monitoring of their forests they begin to lose the local perception of the forest as a source of extractive income to one of long-term sustainable benefit.
Poaching is a serious threat to red panda populations. RPN’s Anti-Poaching Network, led by our Forest Guardians, is helping us fight back. Forest Guardians work alongside local community organizations and government agencies to conduct anti-poaching investigations. This includes patrol red panda habitats, remove traps and snares, educate locals on the importance of red panda conservation, and report poaching activity to enforcement agencies. These efforts have helped us decrease trap and snare presence in the PIT corridor of Eastern Nepal by 60% since 2015.
This photo of a marbled cat — the first photographic evidence of this species in Nepal — is the result of an intensive camera trap mammal survey RPN conducted in non-protected forests in Eastern Nepal. Thanks to the support of Rotterdam Zoo, the study has provided thousands of photographs of Himalayan mammals including red panda, Assamese macaque, barking deer, leopard, and Himalayan black bear.
The First GPS-Satellite Collaring of Red Pandas in Nepal
RPN has successfully equipped ten wild red pandas with GPS-satellite collars in the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung (PIT) Corridor, a forest corridor between protected areas in Nepal and India. This is Nepal’s first red panda GPS collaring project! Learn more.