“As we emerge from Covid-19 and take stock of its impact on planetary health as well as our own, this WhitleyAward will enable Sonam to address issues that have arisen including the increased poaching of an already Critically Endangered species,” says Danni Parks, WFN Director.
She adds: “The charismatic red panda is a much-loved local emblem as well as an international star, and importantly, this holistic project will also benefit the people with whom it shares its home in the forested foothills of the Himalayas.”
The elusive panda of the Himalayas was discovered 50 years before the giant panda and is considered a living fossil. Endemic to eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests, with thick bamboo understories and consistently cool temperatures, red pandas are indicators of ecosystem health.
But the Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years has added challenges to their conservation and caused a surge in poaching with 37 pelts confiscated from the black market in 2021. Estimates suggest that 1 red panda is poached every 10 days in Nepal.
Habitat loss compounding conditions for the 10,000 adult individuals that remain, with rates of deforestation over double the national average and forests now so severely fragmented that genetic inbreeding is likely.