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For a study on the ecology, behaviour and conservation of red panda in the sacred himalaya landscape of nepal

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  1. Background

Red panda Ailurus fulgens (Cuvier, 1825) is one of the poorly known small-bodied mammalian carnivores which are adapted to the herbivore diet. Globally, it is found in mountainous regions of India, China, Bhutan, Burma, Laos including Nepal (Glatston 1994). In Nepal, it is distributed to a narrow attitudinal range of 1500 to 4000 m in the Himalaya and is known to occur in the seven protected areas (PA) i.e. Kangchenjungha Conservation Area (KCA), Makalu Barun National Park and Buffer Zone (MBNP BZ), Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone (SNP BZ), Langtang National Park and Buffer Zone (LNP BZ), Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), Dhorpatn Hunting Reserve (DHR) and Rara National Park and Buffer Zone (RNP BZ) ( BPP 1995, Yonzon et al. 1997).

Till date, few studies have been undertaken to acquire information on the ecology and behaviour of red panda in Nepal (Yonzon 1989), India (Pradhan 1998) and in China (Reid et al 1991, Johnson et al 1988, Wei et al. 1999). The scant information which is currently available reveals that red pandas are solitary animals, widely but patchily distributed and their natural diet is limited essentially to bamboo. The accurate population of red panda is unknown, however, the global population is estimated to be 9,200 – 11,000 individuals (Choudhary 2001; Wei et al. 1999). Recent population estimates in China show that their numbers to decrease by as much as 40% over the last 50 years (Wei et al. 1998). In Nepal, Yonzon et al. (1997) estimated a total 314 individuals on the basis of habitat suitability index. This estimation, however, needs to be updated using the standardized procedures. A mortality rate of 83% for cubs and 47% for adults were reported from Nepal (Yonzon 1989) and as such, they are increasingly threatened with extinction throughout its range (Wei and Hu, 1993, Glatston 1994). Among many threats habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation are serious concern because of the ever increasing anthropogenic disturbances (Yonzon and Hunter 1991 a and b, Pradhan et al. 2001, Wei et al. 1991). Red pandas are extremely vulnerable to these disturbances especially due to their highly specialized niche.

In an attempt to conserve Red panda in their natural habitats, the Government of Nepal enlisted the Red panda in the schedule 1 of the National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973) as a protected species. Moreover, they are given endangered status by IUCN and subsequently, CITIES included it in the Appendix I thereby restricting the trade of red panda and its parts. In order to materialize these policies, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Nepal in collaboration with WWF Nepal, has recently drafted an action plan for red panda conservation. Apart from this, WWF Nepal envisages the landscape level conservation of Red panda and thus has been implementing various activities in the Eastern Himalaya under the framework of Sacred Himalayan Landscape (SHL).

Covering 28,680 sq km of area and extending from Langtang National Park in central Nepal to the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area, the SHL comprise more than two-third of the Nepal’s remaining habitat of red panda in the eastern Nepal. Moreover, it represents elevations ranging from 139m in India to 8,848m in Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. The high topographic complexity and related climatic variability give rise to significant ecological gradients, and thus, high ecosystem diversity over a relatively small area. Many of the habitats forming this complex mosaic are unique to this mountain system.
On the basis of the recommendations of recently drafted action plan for Red panda conservation, WWF Nepal initiated this project in order to pilot the implementation of science based management actions in the field.

  1. IV. Objective:

To undertake in-depth study on ecology and conservation of red panda in the Sacred Himalayan Landscape (in Eastern Himalayan Ecoregion Complex), Nepal

  1. Activities

  1. Mapping of Red panda distribution in SHL

    1. Conduct desk top study and available literature to acquire information on confirmed and potential red panda range/habitat

    2. Conduct presence/absence survey, local interviews and anecdotal oral history to validate and/or update above data

    3. Map different categories of potential habitats as specified in the Annex.

  2. Estimation of abundance of Red panda in the key habitats within SHL

    1. Estimate Red panda population in SHL using standard methodologies

    2. Identify and establish permanent study sites to monitor the temporal variation in Red panda population in the key habitats

    3. Comparative analysis of population structure both at temporal and spatial scale

  3. Habitat selection by Red panda in SHL

    1. Assess the use and availability of red panda seasonal habitats.

    2. Quantify habitat selection by Red panda on the basis of use and availability data.

  4. Conservation of Red panda

    1. Document site specific threats to Red Panda

    2. Recommend possible actions to overcome the threats

  5. Collaborate with all the concerned national and international stakeholders who are directly or indirectly involved in red panda conservation initiatives so as not to duplicate, but to supplement the activities to be undertaken under this agreement.

  1. Field sites

    1. Protected Areas

                 i.    Langtang National Park and Buffer Zone

                ii.    Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone

   iii.   Makalu Barun National Park and Buffer Zone

                iv.   Kanchenjunga Conservation Area and adjoining areas

    1. Districts

i.     Taplejung

 ii.     Panchthar

iii.    Ilam

  1. Sankhuwasabha

 v.    Solukhumbu

  vi.    Dolkha

  1. Sindhupalchowk

  2. Rasuwa

  1. Study team: A study team is expected to be comprised by following experts (preferably having extensive experience in the alpine systems):

  1. Wildlife Biologist

  2. Anthropologist/Sociologist

  3. GIS expert

  1. Expected Outputs

    • A map showing different categories of potential red panda habitats as mentioned in Annex attached herewith

    • Establishment of permanent plots in SHL-Nepal for periodic monitoring of red panda abundance and distribution.

  1. Deliverables

  1. Detail proposal with specific methodology, budget and work plan.

  2. Report on population status and distribution.

  3. Habitat map as described in Output 2 .

  4. Report on habitat selection/requirements.

  5. Final report and financial report submission.

  6. Maps, photographs, negatives and other relevant documents procured under this contract.

  7. Digital and hard copy of data collected with their analysis, model, and diagrams.

  1. Duration of contract

(To be finalized by the consultant and WWF Nepal)

  1. Fund disbursement

The field expenses advance, not exceeding up to 25% of total amount will be disbursed upon submission of the detail work plan including and request for advance. Other field expenses advance, not exceeding up to 25% of total amount will be disbursed after completion of deliverables 2.0 and 3.0. listed above. Remaining 50% will be disbursed after the completion of work.

  1. Detail workplan

(To be finalized by the consultant and WWF Nepal)
Habitat categories

  1. Confirmed habitats – An area of suitable habitat in which there is no reasonable doubt that red panda occur based on confirmed reports dating back to 10 years ago (from January 1998 or later)

  2. Possible habitats– An area within the established/well documented historical habitat, and in suitable habitat, where red panda may be present BUT either

    1. confirmed reports pre-date January 1998 and there are no subsequent data to rule out red panda presence;

    2. or evidence of red panda presence is based on unconfirmed reports only

  3. Former habitats

    1. Non recoverable - An area where there was evidence of red panda presence in the past but where extensive work has failed to find evidence of their presence, or which is obviously no longer suitable for red panda.

    2. Recoverable habitats – An area of former range where habitat remains over sufficiently large areas that either natural or assisted recovery might be possible within the next 10 years

  4. Unknown range – An area where red panda’s status is currently unknown

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