PAKYONG, SIKKIM: With more than 10 million years of its existence, the Red Panda is known to be one of the Earth’s living fossils, as it has existed for over 10 million years. But the state animal of Sikkim, which is found across Eastern Himalayas and South West China, is now fighting for its survival.
But there is a ray of hope as World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and a leading public sector bank are taking forward the Red Panda conservation work at a transboundary level focusing on Sikkim and Kalimpong District of West Bengal.
The three-year project, from January 2022 to December 2025, shall work with the main objectives of generating information on the species at a transboundary level, and engaging communities for safeguarding key habitats in Sikkim and Kalimpong.
Numbering just 10,000 in the wild worldwide and 300 in the wilds of Sikkim, it is now on the list of endangered species. Loss of habitat and poaching poses a serious threat to the existence of these exquisite animals.
“WWF-India has been working in the Sikkim-Darjeeling landscape to enhance ecological understanding and community-based initiatives. To initiate the project, an inception workshop was organised to invite relevant stakeholders to share the project objectives and seek their inputs and suggestions,” a WWF-India official said at an Inception Workshop for Conservation of Red Panda in Kanchenjunga Landscape. It was jointly conducted by WWF and SBI foundation at Aritaar, East Sikkim.
In Sikkim, an area of 1341 square km was identified as potential habitat. It was found that more than 60 per cent of it fell outside the Protected Area network, making the Red Panda population vulnerable to existing threats.
WWF-India works in partnership with the Department of Forests, Environment and Wildlife Management, Government of Sikkim and the Department of Environment and Forests, Government of Arunachal Pradesh to conduct research and implement conservation measures in the Red Panda habitat in these two states.