Species and Critical habitats: Assessing tourism contribution in the Red Panda Landscape


Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens is an Endangered and evolutionarily distinct carnivore distributed across Eastern Himalayas in Nepal, India, Bhutan, extending into Myanmar and China, in habitats ranging within elevations of 2000 - 4000 meters. As many as 22 Protected Areas in Sikkim, Darjeeling and Arunachal Pradesh conserve the Red Panda in India. Some of these Protected Areas are popular trekking or tourism destinations. Tourism is one of the few permitted uses of protected areas on the premise that tourism can be an effective tool for conservation and management to ensure the sustainability of the values preserved in Protected Areas (PA). Despite, tourism having high potential in yielding significant benefits, it has also been found that tourism contributed little to poverty reduction in mountain areas, attributing this to policy failures, poor regulations, lack of human resource development, lack of supply facilities and management and leakages from mountain areas. Contribution of tourism to Red Panda and Red Panda habitat has not been subjected to any assessment, so far. Red panda owes its Endangered status mainly to loss and fragmentation of its habitat and direct harvest, throughout its range, however, the relative importance of these factors and their causes vary across sub regions and is not well understood. An ongoing study in ATREE Eastern Himalaya examines the contribution of tourism in Red Panda habitats across three PAs namely the Singhalila, Neora Valley and the Bharsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalaya. All the three PAs are transboundary in nature sharing borders with either Nepal or Bhutan. Preliminary findings of tourism dynamics in Singhalila National Park along the Indo-Nepal Red Panda habitat is discussed here.

About the speaker

Dr. Sunita Pradhan is a Visiting Fellow with ATREE, Eastern Himalaya Northeast Regional Office and based in Gangtok, Sikkim. She has been working on the Red Panda in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya for more than a decade now, looking into aspects of both insitu and exsitu conservation. She is at present looking at threats and appropriate interventions for conservation of the species. Apart from this, some of her current projects include wildlife conservation in Areas outside Protected Areas such as Tea Plantations, Reserve Forests and private lands, along with her project on Hornbills and their dietary overlap of wild fruits with people. All these projects endeavor to get insights into linkages and interactions among cultural, social and natural elements in context of biodiversity and wildlife conservation in the Eastern Himalaya.