A rare ‘red’ sighting

Posted on
23 November 2012
The Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh harbours a rich variety of flora and fauna, many of them endemic and therefore found nowhere else in the world. Among the faunal species, the state has the largest habitat of the red panda (Ailurus fulgens), a Vulnerable* tree-dwelling mammal found in temperate bamboo forests. The long term survival of the red panda is threatened by loss of habitat, grazing pressures and hunting.

WWF-India as a part of its Western Arunachal Landscape Conservation Programme has been working to generate baseline data regarding the status of red panda population and its habitat in West Kameng and Tawang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Based on the initial survey result Zemithang valley has been identified as a priority site for red panda conservation. The local communities are actively working with WWF-India for the conservation of the species and its habitat. In Arunachal, 60% of the forests are under the traditional control of local communities. With support from WWF-India, villagers have demarcated two community conserved areas (CCA) – Pangchen Lumpo Muchat CCA and Pangchen Lakhar CCA covering an area of 183 sq. km for conservation of the flora and fauna found in the area which include Himalayan black bear, leopard, blue sheep, musk deer, black necked crane and the red panda.

As part of the conservation activities, the villagers have started maintaining records of sighting of any animal in the area by taking photographs and recording the GPS coordinates. So far villagers have successfully taken photographs of 7 black necked cranes that visited the valley last winter. Besides this, villagers also recorded sighting of 4 red pandas in the last eight months from various sites though they failed to take photographs. Recently, on 5th Oct 2012, after Mr. Degin Dorjee, Community Mobiliser, WWF-India was informed about the sighting of a red panda near Komratsar area, he immediately went there with some local boys. After reaching the spot, he successfully photographed and shot video footage of the animal, which was feeding on a Sorbus tree and was also using a nearby Rhododendron tree for resting. Due to their extremely shy nature, it is extremely difficult to sight a red panda in the wild and therefore this sighting and the resultant documentation was a significant occasion.

The change in attitude of local villagers towards the wildlife present in the forests under their management is very encouraging. Conservation of wildlife in the state in remote forests, 60% of which are under control of local communities, is possible only when villagers take pride in the unique animals the forests in their area are home to. WWF-India continues to work with the local communities to facilitate the conservation of the bio diverse forests of the state.

* Wang, X., Choudhury, A., Yonzon, P., Wozencraft, C. & Than Zaw 2008. Ailurus fulgens. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 16 November 2012.

For further information:
Dr. Pijush Dutta
Senior Landscape Coordinator, WAL
M: +91 94366 31181
E: pijush@wwfindia.net

Anil Cherukupalli
Senior Communications Officer
T: +91 11 4150 4783
E: anil.cherukupalli@wwf.panda.org


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