Conservation of flagship species and their habitats
In partnership with the Department of Forest and Environment Department Government of Sikkim, the team has enumerated the probable distribution of red panda in the state. In Sikkim, WWF- India’s study has shown that 66 percent of the red panda habitats extend outside of protected areas. These spaces outside of Protected Areas shall be the focus of future interventions. Intensive research in selected red panda habitats is underway to ascertain their micro-habitat details and food preference. Threats to the species’ populations in its strongholds have been identified, and mitigation measures have been initiated in partnerships at Governement and community level. WWF- India is currently working across the Sikkim – North Bengal landscape to understand the distribution and threats to the species.
Sikkim is significant in having connectivity to snow leopard populations between India, Nepal, China and Bhutan. Most of the area of the state above 4,000 meters (around 3000 Km2) are potential snow leopard habitat. WWF- India is working to develop a science based conservation plan for snow leopard conservation in the landscape in collaboration with the Forest and Environment Department and other stakeholders. Close engagement with the pastoral communities for rangeland management is an important part of the work. WWF- India partners with the Sikkim Anti Rabies and Animal Health Programme of the Animal Husbandry Department to reduce free ranging dog populations in the snow leopard habitat.
Building community stewardship for natural resource management
Communities are at the center of all interventions in the landscape. Promotion of alternatives to fuelwood, restoration of degraded forest areas, spring rejuvenation initiatives, and promotion of sustainable livelihood are some of WWF-India’s initiatives. Improved cookstoves that reduce firewood consumption by up to 50 percent that have been promoted in villages around red panda habitats have seen high levels of acceptance from communities. In Darjeeling, work on restoration of degraded areas through reforestation activities through Project SERVE is an important component.
Promotion of responsible tourism in Sikkim:
Tourism is key driver of change across the landscape and promoting responsible tourism forms an important part of WWF- India’s work in the landscape. WWF- India drafted the Sikkim Tourism Policy for the Government of Sikkim together with partner organization Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS) which was based on the principles of environment conservation. WWF- India works to implement components of the tourism policy with a strategy that focuses on promotion of natural and cultural values of the place with community participation. Capacity-building programmes to strengthen community institutions, improve skills of tourism service providers are condcted in partnership with the Khangchendzonga Conservation Committee and Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim.
HWC is one of the most pressing concerns for mountain communities. Communities in the mountains have peacefully co-existed with nature and wildlife, but with increasing competition for land and resources, these shared spaces are becoming more and more contested. WWF- India works with DLR Prerna to advocate for an integrated approach going beyond departmental boundaries to address conflict. At the community level interventions undertaken include HWC reduction measures and strengthening existing livelihood of farming, as well as in its diversification through tourism and beekeeping.
Environment Education and Awareness
Awareness around environment and biodiversity conservation has been an integral part of WWF- India’s work in KCL, and it has touched the lives of hundreds of students, who have been part of the various awareness programmes conducted over the years. The work spans across schools of Sikkim and Darjeeling with awareness camps, nature appreciation workshops, nature walks,etc. conducted for students and teachers. Biodiversity exhibitions conducted at regular intervals have outreach to the public at large. Work with Zero Waste Himalayan focuses on developing Peer Educators who are advocates of promoting sustainable lifestyles and also demanding for systemic change for waste management.
In the Darjeeling hills, WWF India has been working with Project SERVE (Save the Environment and Regenerate Vital Employment) since 1996 with funding support from Projektwerkstatt Teekampagne, Germany. The main aim of Project SERVE is to restore the environment of the Darjeeling hills with active participation from the general public, government officials, local community members, students and teachers of schools, army personnel, local NGOs, tea garden management and the media.In the past 25-years WWF-India has been working on reforestation, promoting sustainable livelihood to communities, species conservation and environment education programmes.