Kathmandu– The poaching of Red Panda, the shy and charismatic endangered mammal species, has not been controlled yet. Instead, smugglers are giving continuity.
Two months ago, a police team fanned out from the Metropolitan Police Circle, Durbarmarg, had arrested two persons in possession of a Red Panda hide. This is not the first time that the police have confiscated Red Panda hide. This is just an example of Red Panda smuggling.
According to the statistics of Department of Forests (DoF), police had apprehended 90 persons in possession of 85 Red Panda hides in the past five years from the Capital.
The statistics of police, however, showed that only 50 hides of Red Panda were seized. The persons, who were involved in the smuggling of Red Pandas are aged 25 to 40.
Though the smuggling of Red Pandas has been increasing, DSP Anupam Rana of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police said that they have not got any information about the buying or selling of Red Pandas yet.
Why the Red Pandas are killed? It has been learnt that many people are attracted to kill Red Panda is just for the monetary value. But in reality the endangered animal is poached in rumour.
According to the investigation and police statistics, there is no trade link or market of Red Pandas in Nepal.
DSP Rana said that the most of the smugglers were arrested while they were searching for the prospective clients.
“Many people killed Red Pandas for money as it is one of the endangered animals of Nepal,” he said adding, “The poaching of Red Pandas has been increasing in the recent time due to lack of awareness.” He said that it is necessary that the organization, which is working to protect the Red Pandas, should raise awareness among the people.
“We have heard that a Red Panda hide is sold for Rs 100,000 to 550,000 in the market,” one of the arrestees said. He, however, has no knowledge about the clients and the places to sell it.
Red Panda hides have not been confiscated in China, Indian border, and international airports yet.
If the Red Panda hides are important, smugglers from Rasuwa, Taplejung and Sindhupalchok would not have come to Kathmandu, capital city of Nepal, instead of going to China. Hence, it has been proved that there is no market of Red Pandas in Nepal.
The Langtang National Park has also established a fund of Rs 100,000 for the conservation and monitoring of Red Panda.
The National Park and Buffer Zone Support Project established the fund to not hamper the regular monitoring of Red Panda. They, however, have not been able to raise awareness among the people about the importance of endangered animal.
“We have barred people from entering the forest to conserve the Red Panda,” Nawang Phinjo Tamang, Chairman of wildlife poaching group, of Rasuwa said. “But the Red Panda is falling prey to the illiterate people. People only know Red Panda as an endangered animal. The poaching has been increasing due to failure of the concerned authority to raise awareness among the people about why the animal should not be killed.”
People are still in illusion that they will make a lot of money from the smuggling of endangered animal which is why the poaching of Red Panda is increasing.
The estimated population of Red Panda, which is slightly larger than a domestic cat with a bear-like body and thick russet fur, across the world is 2500 and the Langtang National Park alone has around 150.
Scientifically known as Ailurus fulgens, Red Panda has different names in different places.
Dr Prahlad Yongan had spent many years in the investigation and monitoring of Red Panda in the Langtang National Park.
Yongan, who had also done thesis in the situation of Red Panda, said that Cholangpati, Dhokachet and Lamahotel of Rasuwa are the pocket areas of Red Panda.
According to statistics, Red panda habitat temperatures usually fall between 10 – 25 degrees centigrade. Red Pandas also inhibit elevation ranges from 6,000 – 12,000 feet.
Red Panda, known as Habre in Nepali, is one of the rare animal species inhabiting the temperate forests with abundance of bamboo in Nepal, India, Bhutan, northern Myanmar and southwestern China. Red pandas live for about 8-10 years, but can live for 15.
Red Pandas are 79 -120 cm long, including a 30 – 60 cm long tail, and they weigh four-six kg.
Red Pandas eat berries, blossoms, bird eggs, bamboo leaves, and the small leaves of other plants. Bamboo leaves are the Red Panda’s primary food source.
Conservationists said that reckless construction of roads through Red Panda habitat, deforestation, forest fire, poaching, open grazing, attack from the predators are the major cause of declining in the number of Red Panda.
In a bid to conserve the Red Panda, conservation education has been included in school curriculum in Panchthar, Ilam and Taplejung districts since 2017. Environment Conservation Education, which mainly focuses on red panda conservation, has been designed for Grade six.
Meanwhile, a month-long survey carried out by a group of 40 persons deployed by Red Panda Network found the existence of red pandas in 23 districts.
According to the Red Panda Network, Panchthar, Ilam, Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Solukhumbu, Khotang, Bhojpur, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dhading, Lamjung, Myagdi, Baglung, Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Jumla, Mugu and Kalikot are the major red panda habitats.
Red pandas, which are found above 2000 metres, are enlisted in the protected mammal species list under the NPWC Act.
Red Pandas live in over 16,316 square kilometers of habitat in Nepal. Among them, 26 percent of the habitat is in the western region, 28 percent in the eastern region and 16 percent in the central region.