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Red Panda network

Zoo News - Posted 30 July 2013

sarah j redpanda 2013

As a Hamilton Zoo keeper and conservationist, taking the exciting opportunity to participate as a research assistant with the Red Panda Network and their initiated signature programme 'Punde Kundo' which means 'Red Panda' in the local Nepalese dialect, was an adventure waiting to be had.

The focus was to develop transect lines in a national forest and five community forests - training local communities to be employed forest guardians conducting long term monitoring of the red panda and their habitats with GPS equipment/camera traps and data recording skills.

The surveyed area contains 33.5 square km of red panda habitat which supports an estimated red panda population of 20 individuals - approximately 1 individual per 1.67km.

During the two months I spent in the forests I was very fortunate to watch three individuals, one I came across when I was on my own on an early misty walk in the forest. I sat on the crisp winter leaves at the base of the leafless tree and watched as the panda plucked the last of winters berries from it long flexible branches. And as the rising suns rays shone on its fire burning coat so did the panda's morning grooming duties begin. How time disappears when you are right where you love to be. As I left the panda in the sun and headed back to camp up along the narrow well trodden track, there in front of me stood the world's third tallest mountain 'Mount Kanchenjunga'.

Also known as a region of international importance due to species richness and diversity it is home to the clouded leopard and Himalayan thar. Neither were seen on this trip but there is always next time.

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