A safe haven for the Red Panda

Picture Courtesy: Wild Life Conservation Division, MoAF
Picture Courtesy: Wild Life Conservation Division, MoAF

Sighting a Red Panda in the wild is believed to bring good luck. The belief gets more stronger since the animal is sighted on rare occasions and only few people see them in the jungle. All the beliefs aside, and more importantly, the animal is precious in the ecosystem for its rarity and elusive behavior.

However, lady luck is yet to bless the forest officials and the park visitors of Lamperi Royal Botanical Park, who have been increasingly crossing paths with the red panda.

Park officials not only have the red panda captured in numerous video clips with their camera traps set within the park areas but some officials have chanced upon with the animal for real.

Few months ago, park officials set up remote cameras to confirm the predator behind the livestock kill reported to the park authorities. When they later retrieved the cameras, officials found that besides Tigers, a red panda has also been filmed by the spy camera.

Later that same month, another forest official, Tshewang Lhamo was out early in the morning, bird-watching within the periphery of the park office. She was near the Baritsho Lake, a few hundred meters away from the park office when she caught a movement from the corner of her eyes. When she checked it out closely, she found out that it was a red panda.

According to the park official, all such sightings indicate that the red panda is thriving well within the park. They added that in most of the park areas, there is abundant bamboo, which is the primary diet of the red panda. “With food aplenty, it will thrive well.”

In a study done by Wildlife Conservation Division’s (WCD) forestry officer, Sangay Dorji, he mentioned that red panda requires matured forests with complex undergrounds, including a dense growth of bamboo for food and access to water.

“The few detailed studies on red panda ecology throughout its range suggest that bamboo cover and height, canopy cover, and proximity to water are important structural attributes.”

As per his studies, Bhutan’s temperate forests are crucial to the survival of the species. Further, he found out that red pandas in Bhutan were generally confined to cool broadleaf and conifer forests from 2,110–4,389 meters above sea level, with the majority of records between 2,400–3,700 meters above sea level.

However, the research he undertook as part of his Masters degree program highlighted there exist an inadvertent conflict between the needs of people, and the needs of red pandas.

“Because Bhutan’s temperate forests that encompass prime red panda habitat are also integral to human subsistence and socio-economic development, there exists an inadvertent conflict between the needs of people and red pandas.”

As per his research, careful sustainable management of Bhutan’s temperate forests is necessary if a balance is to be met between the socioeconomic needs of people and the conservation goals for red pandas.

“The red panda is vulnerable to extinction through habitat loss and fragmentation, which restricts the availability of mature den trees and prolific bamboo undergrowth.”

The red panda is endemic to the eastern Himalayas. Its distribution ranges from western Nepal into India, Bhutan, and northern Myanmar through to the Minshan Mountains and upper Min Valley of Sichuan Province in south-central China.

In Bhutan, detection of red panda has been reported from numerous protected areas such as Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), Thrumshingla National Park (TNP) and also from Royal Manas National Park (RMNP).

 

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