High up in the mountains of Nepal, red pandas and people have lived side by side for decades.
But as red panda numbers dwindle worldwide, it’s time for humans to step up to secure the future of these at-risk animals.
From the Himalayas to the Great Dividing Range, University of Southern Queensland Environmental Science and Management Professor Tek Maraseni is one of the many people working hard on this issue.
“We can only find red pandas in their natural habitats in a few countries around the world,” Dr Maraseni said.
“There are less than 10,000 red pandas in the wild and, over the last three generations, their population has decreased by over 50 per cent.
“The situation was made worse during the pandemic when a large number were killed by hunters as their fur has high value in the Chinese and Taiwan markets.
“Nepal is one home to the red panda with over 500 within the 24 Himalayan districts.”
In conjunction with the Red Panda Network, Kathmandu Forestry College and Griffith University, Dr Maraseni is developing a new conservation strategy to support the Nepalese community.
“Around 70 per cent of the total red panda habitat lies outside protected areas in Nepal, mainly in community forest areas,” Dr Maraseni said.
“So in order to conserve them, we need the cooperation and active participation of the people in this area.
“At the moment, we are developing governance standards with input from local community members, so they have ownership over the project.”
He said the team were developing conservation interventions at a local level.
“The Nepalese people in this area are very poor, their per capita income is usually less than $600,” he said.
“We are looking into income sources for the local community, so they will actively participate in the red panda conservation activities.”
Dr Maraseni said not only do the pandas bring tourism to the area, they also live in bamboo forests, which are very carbon dense.
“This is important from a climate change mitigation point of view,” he said.
“So there are many organisations that not only want to save the red pandas in the area but also protect the local ecosystem.”
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University of Southern Queensland Environmental Science and Management Professor Tek Maraseni is one of the many people working hard to protect Nepal’s red panda population.