NEPAL PROJECT: HABITAT CONSERVATION AND MOUNTAIN ECOSYSTEM
Join us this spring for a singular opportunity to conduct field studies in the habitat of the endangered Red Panda. At one time, the red panda’s territory covered much of northern Nepal and China. Today, however, the red pandas are quite rare, residing in key habitats including our study areas in Nepal’s eastern Himalaya. Our team field study will focus on Nepal’s Kangchenjunga Region, an area home to some of the highest mountains in the world and a global hotspot for mountain biodiversity, as we examine the habitat needs and conservation efforts to protect this special species.
Although red pandas are protected by national law, their numbers in the wild continue to decline mainly due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and poaching. The Nepalese government, NGO’s and local mountain communities are deeply invested in panda habitat conservation, establishing forest reserves and working with local villages to develop protection initiatives. These innovative habitat conservation efforts benefit not only the red panda but numerous other rare species of plants and animals, making this the perfect environment for us to examine both the ecological needs of the red panda and the remarkable biodiversity of the Nepalese Himalayas.
We begin our project in southern Nepal where we will experience first-hand several of Nepal’s wildlife species, including rhino, sambar deer, crocodile, and on the rare occasion, tiger. It is here that we start our discussion on Nepal’s wildlife management efforts and policy. We then ascend the eastern Himalaya’s Kangchenjunga Conservation Area to start our study of the red panda. Trekking deeply into the backcountry, we intend to survey red panda habitat in forests at elevations of about 8,000 to 12,000 feet. Running transects on forested slopes, we will pursue and record evidence of wild mammals, including red pandas, and make quantitative habitat assessments. Here, too, we can also quantify human activity (beneficial as well as detrimental) and investigate how traditional land use patterns and newer community forest regulations affect the way people use natural resources.
Our inquiry into the status of the region’s wildlife will involve interviews with local people, including the possibility of identifying resident wildlife experts (often ex-hunters) with whom we can work to try to learn about the red panda and key wildlife species. During the course of the project, we also hope to interact with local NGO’s affording team members the unique opportunity to work alongside researchers to evaluate strategies for panda habitat conservation.
Through our Nepal Red Panda program we will gain firsthand experience conducting ecological surveys in one of the world’s most magnificent mountain ecosystems. By the end of the project, each of us will have acquired research experience with red pandas, an understanding of their ecology, behavior, and habitat needs, and practical experience with conservation management in Nepal’s dynamic, rapidly changing societies.
WWU Accessibility Notice