Villagers form alliance to conserve red panda
- Five villages in Arunachal constitute group with support from Sir Dorabji Tata Trust
Guwahati, Dec. 7: Villagers in the high-altitude areas of Arunachal Pradesh have joined hands to form a red panda conservation alliance — claiming to be the first community initiative of its kind in the world.
"The constitution of the alliance will not only help in conservation of red pandas in a scientific manner but will also help in strengthening the ongoing community-based tourism being promoted in the area as conservation incentives for the villagers. This is reported to be the first community initiative of its kind in the world,” Pijush Kumar Dutta, the landscape co-ordinator of Western Arunachal Pradesh Landscape Conservation Programme WWF-India, told The Telegraph.
Dutta said since the area has a good population of red pandas (Ailurus fulgens), which is listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, Appendix I of CITES and as endangered species in IUCN Red List, villagers have decided to form Pangchen Red Panda Conservation Alliance.
The alliance, formed with support from Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, has been named Pangchen Red Panda Conservation Alliance as these villages — Socktsen, Kharman, Kelengteng, Lumpo and Muchat — are from this valley. The villages are situated at a height ranging from 6,000 to 14,000 feet. The villagers have reported sighting red pandas on the laju tree in the valley.
The total forest area under control of these five villagers is 200 square km and this area is known as community-conserved area.
“A detailed plan will be prepared in discussion with the villagers. However, immediate plan of action is to ban any kind of hunting or capturing of red panda. The idea is to ensure protection of its habitat and plant species on which it is dependent and report sighting by any villagers and maintain a record of it,” Dutta said.
Work will be taken up in consultation with the villagers to identify the threats and pressure on red panda and its habitat to develop a long-term management plan.
Dutta said there had been no scientific study of population of the red panda in Arunachal Pradesh but based on the area of its suitable habitat, it is estimated that more than 90 per cent of the animals’ population in the country is in Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.
The idea behind the alliance is to strengthen the community-based conservation to secure vast forest area of the state, which is under the control of indigenous communities. Nearly, 60 per cent of the forest area is under traditional ownership.
Dutta said the residents of two community-conserved areas (CCAs) in Tawang district, Thembang Bapu CCA (312 square km), and Pangchen Lumpo Muchat CCA (98 square km), had started similar initiatives to protect the wildlife in 2008 and in the process had earned a good revenue from tourism.
It has helped the villagers in these areas earn over Rs 4.24 lakh by providing home-stay operators, home-based restaurant operators, porters, guides, cooks and helpers besides entry fee, camera fee, camping site charge and camping material charge.