Rare Red Panda Sighting

Community conservation work leads to spotting of elusive species

Red panda photographed by Degin Dorjee

Extremely elusive, the red panda is difficult to see in its favored habitat—the bamboo forests in the Eastern Himalayas. Less than 10,000 exist in the wild today, threatened by habitat loss, grazing pressures and hunting.

WWF works closely with local communities to conserve the red panda. In the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in India, WWF has been gathering data on the red panda population. Local communities are actively involved in grassroots projects for the conservation of the species and its habitat, including two community conservation areas covering more than 70 square miles.

As part of their work, villagers maintain data on any animal sightings in the area by taking photographs and recording GPS coordinates. So far villagers successfully photographed seven black necked cranes that visited the valley last winter.

When a group of local boys spied a red panda on a recent monitoring mission they quickly alerted WWF’s community mobilizer Degin Dorjee. He immediately headed into the bamboo forests where they found the shy tree-dweller.

Dorjee captured photos and videos of the animal feeding and then resting in a nearby Rhodendron tree. The images are a first for the area and cause for celebration.

The forests of Arunachal hold a rich variety of flora and fauna, many of them found nowhere else in the world. It is the largest habitat of the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) and also home to the Himalayan black bear, leopard, blue sheep, musk deer, and black-necked crane.

Conservation is only possible when people take pride in the wildlife that shares their home. WWF continues to work with the local communities to conserve these biologically-diverse forests. In doing so, we help build a future for nature and the people that depend on its resources.