Red Panda camera trapped in Sikkim
The red panda, sometimes known as cat bear and lesser panda, is a tree dwelling mammal that lives in temperate climates, usually in Deciduous Broad Leaf and Coniferous forests having bamboo under-storey and hollow trees. It is found in the Eastern Himalayas region in parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Southern China and in the Indian states of Sikkim, West Bengal, Meghalaya, with a majority of its population in Arunachal Pradesh.
Red panda is categorised Vulnerable by IUCN and is covered under CITES Appendix I and Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, as its numbers are steadily declining mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The forests that are its habitat are being cleared for timber extraction, agricultural development and livestock grazing along most of its range. This has considerably affected its breeding and feeding grounds. It is also hunted for its pelt, which is used in traditional hats and clothing, across the border in China. Apart from this they are sometimes caught in the wild and kept as pets in parts of India and Nepal.
WWF-India is currently working with its stake holders to conserve this rare animal across most of its distribution range in North-East India, particularly in the landscapes of Khangchendzonga and Western Arunachal. A survey has been conducted in the Khangchendzonga Landscape to enumerate its present status, especially in the state of Sikkim, in partnership with the Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department (FEWMD), Govt. of Sikkim. As part of the Red Panda Project in Sikkim, WWF-India’s Khangchendzonga Landscape Programme team has initiated camera trapping in November 2010. According to Dr. Partha Sarathi Ghose, Senior Project Officer of Khangchendzonga Landscape Programme, the survey at Barsey Rhododenderon Sanctuary in West Sikkim, bordered by West Bengal in south and neighbouring country Nepal towards west, during March this year has revealed encouraging results. A red panda was photographed by one of the camera traps in its natural habitat in a bamboo forest interspersed with oak and rhododendron on 3 March 2011. The picture was taken as the mammal was treading on the ground, which it usually does to move from one tree to another. Incidentally, this is only the second red panda photo captured in a camera trap from Sikkim, the first one being by WII from the nearby Khangchendzonga National Park.
Along with FEWMD and with support from the local communities, intensive research in selected red panda habitats is also underway to ascertain their micro-habitat details and food preference. Probable threats to red panda populations and to its habitat in its strongholds have been identified, and mitigation measures have been initiated in partnership with FEWMD, Rural Management and Development Department, Government of Sikkim and local community based organisations (CBOs). WWF-India looks forward to continue its work in association with its partners for the long term survival of this species.
An overview on wildlife management in Sikkim (Website of Government of Sikkim)