Damber Bista, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, observed that human influence is limiting red panda movement in Nepal, fragmenting their habitat even further. This was noticed while utilising GPS telemetry from Queensland to study the red pandas.
This is unfortunately a very troubling finding.
Mr. Bista contends that modern patterns of habitat fragmentation and forest exploitation, fueled by infrastructure projects like road development, are a huge threat to the red panda.
Red pandas are altering their behaviour to spend less time in the presence of disturbances such as humans, dogs, and cattle. This has a major impact on the animals’ natural interactions, resulting in population separation.
Mr. Bista has travelled to Nepal in late 2019 to install satellite-tracking collars on the animals.
He was able to monitor the red pandas while his colleagues installed cameras and conducted field inspections.
During the COVID lockdowns, he spent much of each day inside his house, using his computer to track the whereabouts of red pandas in Nepal.
He concentrated the majority of his entire attention on a single red panda during the observation; a wandering adult male red panda named “Chintapu” after the region where he was found. It was discovered that the animal had travelled 5 kilometres in 24 hours, which is unusual for a red panda.
Mr. Bista also spent a year searching for other red pandas, finding one named “Paaruhaang” after a local god, another named “Mechaachaa,” which means “daughter,” and a third named “Ninaammaa,” which means “Queen of the Sky” in local dialect.
Red pandas in danger.
Mr. Bista’s research was the sixth in the world and the second in Nepal on red pandas in their natural habitat.
It’s impossible to say how many red pandas are alive in the wild, but 10,000 are thought to be left, with 500 to 1,000 in Nepal. However, according to Mr. Bista, there’s a good chance it’ll be under 10,000.
He is concerned about the survival of this species in light of the findings of this study on habitat fragmentation and the findings of a previous study on the effects of poaching.
While red pandas may be able to adapt to changes in their environment to some extent, it appears likely that they will go extinct locally under these conditions, putting the species in jeopardy as a whole.
According to Mr. Bista, the red panda is forced to choose between adjusting to modern life and remaining near to its natural predators as the area of natural forest shrinks.
As you might expect, it’s in an animal’s best interest to avoid predators but as people continue to develop more roads and infrastructure, red pandas are finding it much more difficult to do so.
Because there are fewer suitable woods to choose from, the red panda must consider all of its options to ensure its survival.
In the long run, this tradeoff may result in a higher chance of death and a lower total population.
He believes that this emphasises the need of removing human-caused disturbances, which is one of the study’s recommendations.
His advice is that human activities be strictly restricted throughout the majority, if not all, of the physiologically essential times, including mating, dispersion, and birthing seasons.
The researchers recommend that conservation efforts focus on identifying environmentally fragile areas, ensuring habitat continuity, and minimising methods that disrupt ecosystems, such as road construction and livestock grazing.
They believe that identifying ecologically vulnerable areas should be a significant conservation priority.
If avoiding road repair is not possible, they recommended avoiding critical spots, lowering speed restrictions and noise levels, and increasing the number of animal crossings in high-risk zones.
Landscape Ecology documented and reported the findings.
The Red Panda Network, the University of Queensland, the University of Southern Queensland, Rotterdam Zoo, and the University of Queensland collaborated on this study.
Story Source: Original press release by University of Queensland.. Note: Content may be edited for style and length by Scible News.
Damber Bista, Greg S. Baxter, Nicholas J. Hudson, Sonam Tashi Lama, Peter John Murray. Effect of disturbances and habitat fragmentation on an arboreal habitat specialist mammal using GPS telemetry: a case of the red panda. Landscape Ecology, 2021; 37 (3): 795 DOI: 10.1007/s10980-021-01357-w