Our Neighborhood's Biodiversity Map

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Asia
RedPandaFullBody * To See the original image, please click the image
Shared by : Reshma Gurung, Madan Subedi (Nepal)
Region : Eastern Himalayas and south-western China
Status : Vulnerable
Introduction
Red panda, also called lesser panda, red bear-cat and red cat-bear, is a small arboreal mammal and endangered species native to the eastern Himalayas, south western China. Red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is slightly larger than a cat, belonging to the family Ailuridae. The accurate population figures in the wild are difficult to find, with estimates ranging from 11,000 to 20,000 worldwide. It is rare and continues to decline. Red panda is the only living species of family Ailuridae. Two subspecies are recognized which are Ailurus fulgens fulgens (western red panda) and Ailurus fulgens styani (Styan's red panda). Of these two, Ailurus fulgens fulgens also known as western red panda is the one which is native to Nepal.

The whole body of this animal including the sole of feets is covered with reddish brown fur. It has black colour in its belly and legs, while white colour on the side of head and above eyes. This amazing blend of red and white colour forms the basis for its camouflage in the red mosses and white lichens background found in the trees it dwells upon. It is characterized by its long shaggy tail, which is used for maintaining balance in trees and to cover the body during winter. A matured Red Panda weigh between 7-14 lbs and length of the body is generally around 40-45 inches. It has a unique small bony projection on wrist to grip the bamboo stalks. Red Panda is a solitary, shy and secretive natured animal and becomes active mostly at the evening hours of the day. The gestation period is of 134 days and a mother panda gives birth to 1-4 baby pandas at once which remains at nest for 90 days and gets sexually matured at 18 months. The life span of a Red Panda is 8 years on average.
Role in ecosystem
Every living species has its own role towards ecosystem. Red panda are an indicator of the overall health of their home, the Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf Forest. Red panda eats mostly bamboo leaves and may eat insects, birds, eggs, flowers, berries. Its protection is important for the preservation of the world’s natural heritage and global biodiversity because it is the only species of its kind in the world. It is unique in its behavior and specialized in its habitat requirements, as well as the fact that they have no close living relatives. They are living relict of times past.
History
During a survey in the 1970s, signs of red pandas were found in Nepal's Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. Their presence was confirmed in spring 2007 when four red pandas were sighted at elevations ranging from 3,220 to 3,610 m. The species' westernmost limit is in Rara National Park located farther west of the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. Their presence was confirmed in 2008.
In Nepal, red panda is also called 'Habre or Nigalya ponya' and 'bhalu biralo' (bear-cat). Actually, the word "panda" comes from the nepalese word "poonya" which means eater of bamboo. A community managed forest in Ilam district of Eastern Nepal is home to 15 red pandas which generate household income through tourism activities including home-stays. Tourists come for expedition and sight viewing of red panda in Himalayas. They just love the unique experience of the rare view of this magnificent creature.
Threats
The main threats are habitat destruction due to competition with domestic livestock and for timber, fuel, medicinal herbs, agricultural land, hunting, poaching. In recent years, poaching continues and often sold to private collectors at exorbitant prices. In some parts of Nepal and India, red pandas are kept as pets. Red panda are naturally low birth rate and high death rate in wild. So, it is at great risk and danger.
Red Panda has been listed under Appendix I of CITES, the vulnerable category in the IUCN Red List, as the population of mature individuals is less than 10,000. Though there are only a few hundreds of these animals in Nepal, Nepal is thought to be with 38% of its potential habitat. It is found in 8 protected areas in Nepal but the Langtang National Park is considered to be the most important habitat of this animal where it is found at a density of 1 animal/ 4.4 km2 land area.
Efforts
Red panda has been categorized as a protected mammal by the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 of Nepal which prohibits its killing or capture dead or alive. It is estimated that Nepal has only few hundreds. It is protected in all range countries and hunting is illegal in China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma. In Nepal, known population occurs in Langtang NP, Sagarmatha NP, MakaluBarun NP, Rara NP, Annapurna CA, Kanchenjunga CA, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. Many other NGOs like Red Panda Network and INGOs like WWF are working for conservation of red panda.

The efforts for conservation by the local communities of Ilam and Taplejung in the eastern Nepal are found impressive. The Community Based Red Panda Monitoring and Conservation under Red Panda Network (RPN) has been working since 2007 to create awareness and protect the animal. Local people trained as Forest Guardians act as conservation ambassadors in their community, and work for protecting the red panda. As an effort in conservation, local women of Jamuna VDC in Ilam are working at the forefront. Nepal celebrated Red Panda Day on 20 September last year with the slogan “Conserving Locally, Educating Globally”.

Sources :
http://sarajarts.deviantart.com/art/Red-Panda-II-261418694
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_panda http://redpandanetwork.org/red_panda/
http://www.mountaintrekkinginnepal.com/about-red-panda.html

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