The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is endemic to the Eastern Himalaya with distribution limited within Nepal, India, Bhutan, China and Myanmar (Burma). Red pandas are endangered throughout their range and are enlisted as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) Red List. In Nepal, factors threatening red pandas are loss and fragmentation of habitat due to deforestation and conversion to other land use forms, livestock grazing and live poaching, and the pet and fur trade. A major factor hindering conservation efforts is insufficient information regarding red pandas’ distribution and population status. Red panda population numbers are predicted to be lower than 10,000 and declining.
In Nepal, Red Panda Network is working in the lower Kanchenjunga Mountain Complex to monitor red pandas through a community approach and assessing its population trend over a longer period of time. Through this study, they will assess the effectiveness of using camera traps for red panda and produce an index of abundance of red panda in the forest. Funds from the Minnesota Zoo were provided to appoint an additional forest guardian in Nepal’s lower Kanchenjunga Mountain Complex and train him to monitor red pandas with the help of camera traps. Funds were also provided to conduct a refresher workshop for the forest guardians and a conservation education program focusing on red pandas in two schools near red panda habitat. This project was championed by Laurie Trechsel, Zoologist at the Minnesota Zoo.