Forest guardians working in Nepal are motivated by the shy species they are dedicated to protecting in their natural habitat: adorable yet endangered Red Pandas.
Intensely hunted for their unique russet-and-cream colored fur as well as their highly valued bushy tails, Red Pandas are becoming increasingly rare – particularly as their habitat is disappearing across Nepal. To help mitigate these threats, Rainforest Trust’s partner Red Panda Network (RPN) is dedicated to safeguarding habitat for these Endangered mammals through the creation of the 430,000-acre Red Panda Community Forest Reserve. While RPN’s work produces much-needed relief for Red Pandas from the pressures of hunting and habitat loss, the organization also provides an opportunity for community members to become engaged with conservation initiatives through employment as forest guardians.
One of these forest guardians is Chenga Tsering Sherpa, an energetic young man from the Taplejung District of eastern Nepal. Chenga received a formal education until 8th grade and then had to leave school due to family issues, spending the majority of his time herding cattle and practicing agriculture.
While Chenga was aware of the Red Pandas that resided in the forest nearby his village, he was unfamiliar with how their numbers were drastically decreasing in other areas across Nepal. Although he had been told that Red Pandas were hiding in nearby trees, the first time Chenga saw these elusive creatures was when he began working with RPN as a forest guardian.
“Chenga [said] that face to face experience with the cuddly small mammals motivated him to work harder for the conservation of these animals and their habitat,” according to RPN.
Within three months of working with RPN, Chenga learned how to handle a global positioning system (GPS), operate measurement tools and perform data tracking procedures. While developing research skills, he also provided information about the status of wildlife habitat to the conservation organization through his monitoring work.
“Our conservation work would simply not be possible without the endorsement and involvement of local communities,” said Rainforest Trust’s Asia Conservation Officer Rick Passaro. “Any alternative approach to protected area creation and management is sure to fail.”
Header photo: A Red Panda spotted during RPN ecology monitoring. Photo by Peema Sherpa.