“It is critically important to have more research related to identifying and prioritising ecosystem goods and services provided by red panda habitats to the local people and ways of establishing good governance,” says Tek Marasseni of the University of Southern Queensland, and co-author of the paper.
The study underlines the need for red panda research in underrepresented range countries, and assessment of climate change impact, ecosystem services of red panda habitat, bamboo distribution status, population estimation, and population dynamics, behaviour, and movement ecology.
As two new species of red pandas have been recognised recently, it is deemed important to further validate this with studies from underrepresented habitats. Their numbers are now down to less than 10,000 in the wild across Asia, and there has been more than a 50% population decline over the last three generations.
Nepal is estimated to have around 1,000 red pandas in 24 districts, and 70% of their habitat lies outside protected areas in the country, mainly in community forests. Nepal has prioritised red panda research and conservation since the 1980s, but the numbers of animals is still in decline.
Tim Cadman at Griffith University, another co-author of the study, says local communities need support to deter poachers, and find better alternatives to the illegal wildlife trade, especially important during the pandemic, when many people’s livelihoods are threatened.
“This review work on red panda research and conservation provides solid direction for its conservation and research measures in the coming days,” says Ang Phuri Sherpa, Nepal Country Director of Red Panda Network. “Nepal’s Red Panda Conservation Action Plan is important, but we also need partners in other range countries to cooperate in expanding research and maintain habitat connectivity.”
Sonam Tashi Lama is Program Coordinator at the Red Panda Network.