WWF and state forest dept launches Red Panda survey in Sikkim

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Gangtok, Dec 21 (UNI) An ambitious exercise to get an official estimate of the Red Panda population in the Himalayan state began today in joint collaboration with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and Sikkim forest department.

The project is named Red Panda project and spans across seven wildlife sanctuaries of the Himalayan state, including the famous Khangchendzona National Park and Barsey Wildlife Sanctuary. However, Kitam Wildlife Sanctuary has been left out from this exercise.

Two teams of forest department and WWF reached Fambongla wildlife sanctuary in East Sikkim this morning for a Red Panda census.

Assistant Conservator of Forests Mani Ram Subba will be floating questions to the locals living in the periphery of the sanctuary regarding sightings and other knowledge about the Red Panda, informed DFO (Wildlife) Karma Legsey to UNI.

Senior programme officer of WWF Sikkim unit Priyadarshani Shrestha, told UNI that the survey has been initiated to get an approximate figure of the animals in Sikkim.

No official survey had been earlier conducted to find the number of the rare and endangered animal in the state. Red Panda is also the state animal of Sikkim.

The objective of the survey is also to collect data of the animal for conservation and protection purposes and set up habitations as well as to have an idea of the food (bamboo) resources of the Red Panda in the state.

The survey has also timed with the outset of winter as Red Panda usually comes out in the open from its hiding places during this season. The exercise will also be taken to other sanctuaries after it is completed in the Fambongla sanctuary.

Chief Wildlife Warden N T Bhutia said official estimates of the animal species have become important for the Management Action Plan of the forest department for its sanctuaries. The official census of Red Panda will also help the tourism sector, he added.

UNI

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