Though hunters lose interest in Red Panda, traps still snare endangered mammal

At risk: The species has been hunted for meat and fur, besides illegal capture for pet trade. File  

The iconic and endangered Red Panda (ailurus fulgens) has fewer hunters because the younger generations of people across its Himalayan habitat are losing interest in animal products, a new study by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC has found.

However, the reddish-brown arboreal mammal, not closely related to the iconic black-and-white giant panda, is falling to traps laid for other animals, such as the musk deer and wild pigs, the report said.

“The news is both good and bad for the red panda, whose survival is crucial for the eastern and north-eastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests and the eastern Himalayan broadleaf forests,” Saket Badola, the head of TRAFFIC’s India office, told The Hindu on Sunday.

The only living member of the genus Ailurus, the Red Panda is listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. The animal has been hunted for meat and fur, besides illegal capture for the pet trade. An estimated 14,500 animals are left in the wild across Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Myanmar.

10-year period

The report titled “Assessment of illegal trade-related threats to Red Panda in India and selected neighbouring range countries” has looked at a ten-year period from July 2010 to June 2019, and analysed poaching and illegal trade of the species. In addition to looking at seizures, the researchers carried out market surveys, surveys of e-commerce websites and village-level surveys, where they spoke to hundreds of people in the Indian habitat of the Red Panda.

About 5,000-6,000 red pandas are estimated to be present in four Indian states – Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim and West Bengal. This is the second-largest population after China (6,000-7,000). Nepal accounts for 580 animals, while Bhutan and Mynamar have no estimate of the animal’s population.

Red pandas have been reported from 11 districts of Arunachal Pradesh, which is presumed to hold the largest red panda population in the country.

The researchers found that neither India nor Bhutan had reported any incidences of poaching or illegal trade in Red Pandas in the study period.

“This may indicate that traditional demand for such products has reduced over time and might be indicative of the success of awareness campaigns undertaken in the areas,” the report said, indicating that younger people were not keen on using the pelt or meat of the animal.

The TRAFFIC study surveyed 38 village markets in Arunachal Pradesh, covering six markets in Tawang and a at least one market in each of 19 other districts.

“None of the markets had any parts or products made of parts of the red panda for sale,” the survey said.

“Consultations with experts revealed a similar low-level incidence of Red Panda trade in Bhutan and India with one case of accidental trapping of a Red Panda in a snare in Jigme Dorjee National Park from Bhutan and six incidents of poaching accounting for six individual animals in India, aside from a 1999 case involving more than 20 pelts,” the study said.

In contrast, experts from Nepal reported about 25 incidences of Red Panda poaching, involving approximately 55 animals, and also claimed to have witnessed and/or confirmed reports related to poaching on six occasions involving 15 animals.

Mr Badola emphasised the need for community based conservation and protection for the species as its habitat stretches across remote areas.

The report also recommended trans-boundary law enforcement co-operation through the use of multi-government platforms like SAWEN (South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network).

Dr Badola also added that diminishing habitat is a major threat to the species which is a very selective feeder and survives on selected species of bamboos. “In addition to these threats if there is a threat of poaching that makes things more difficult for the survival of the species,” he added.

(With inputs from Rahul Karmarkar)

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 12:07:56 PM |

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