Thursday, June 09, 2011

First Survey Reports On Red Panda in Sikkim Confirms 300 Red Pandas

Gangtok, June 9: A recent survey conducted by the Sikkim forest department and the World Wildlife Fund has revealed that there are around 300 red pandas in the state.

The project, that started in 2008, was conducted in Pangolakha wildlife sanctuary in East Sikkim and Barsey rhododendron sanctuary in the West district and is the first census on the animals.

Red panda, the state animal of Sikkim and one of the endangered species categorised in the Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, is found in six protected areas of the state.

The first phase of the project — Long Term Survival of Red Pandas in Sikkim — that began in Pangolakha was completed recently.

A preliminary survey has started at the Barsey sanctuary this year to find out the number of pandas in the forest.

“By combining our findings at Pangolakha and Barsey we have estimated the population of red pandas in Sikkim to be around 300. This is just a rough and conservative estimate and more surveys are needed to come up with the correct number,” said WWF-India’s senior project officer Parthasarathi Ghosh.

He added that around 20-25 red pandas had been spotted at Pangolakha during the survey and two animals were seen at Barsey.

“We will also start our survey along with the forest department in the Kanchenjungha Biosphere Reserve and Kanchenjungha National Park, which covers West and North districts of Sikkim, from next year. The population estimation exercise will help us map out the habitat areas of the red panda in Sikkim and go a long way in conservation and forest management policies,” said forest secretary and principle chief conservator S.T. Lachungpa. He said the census reports would be published after 5-10 years.

“When the new figures come up we will be able to understand whether this is the result growth or a decrease in the population of red pandas in Sikkim. We will also understand the factors responsible for the growth or decline. It will help us in the scientific management of red panda habitats,” said Lachungpa.

The official said the findings would also help foresters take measures to protect the animals.

“Once we get proper findings we can regulate human activities in the red panda habitats and give proper training to our field staff. We can also plant bamboo and wild fruit trees which are food for the red pandas in these areas,” said Lachungpa.

He added that during the survey the foresters have also collected important data on other animals like the Himalayan pheasants, musk deer and ghoral that are found in the two areas.

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