Good news can be hard to come by for people working to save threatened and endangered species. That’s why the Red Panda Network (RPN) is delighted to share some heartening news worth celebrating: In 2019, there was a record-high number of red pandas seen on RPN’s ecotrip to Nepal.
Since 2011, RPN has offered ecotrips for travelers who want to immerse themselves in the world of red pandas; experience the culture, natural beauty, and biodiversity of Nepal; and take part in community-based conservation.
Ecotrips support RPN’s conservation efforts and give local communities added incentives to help preserve red pandas and curb habitat loss, which is the biggest threat to red pandas living in Nepal. RPN uses a multi-tiered conservation approach. Of these efforts, ecotourism is emerging as the most effective way to support initiatives, such as Plant a Red Panda Home, that protect and restore the Himalayan forest that red pandas need to survive.
For red pandas, the payoff of RPN’s ecotrips to Nepal is big. What began as one to three red panda sightings per trip, has increased over time. The success rate for seeing red pandas has been 100 percent for RPN ecotrippers since 2017, and eight red pandas were spotted in 2018. Then in 2019, a record-high of ten red pandas—a total of nine cubs (from different litters) and one female red panda—were seen on a 12-day trip.
The increased number of red pandas seen by ecotrippers, combined with reports of more red pandas and wildlife seen in habitat reforested with the support of ecotrip funds, strongly suggests that red panda numbers in Nepal are on the rise.
RPN offers a variety of ecotrips for small groups of travelers. To ensure that red pandas aren't disturbed during ecotrips, RPN follows strict red panda tracking protocols which include no trips during mating and birthing seasons and avoiding repeated visits to a red panda site.
Another tangible benefit of RPN ecotrips is the huge and positive impact it has on the local people and their country’s economy. RPN’s ecotourism funds RPN field research, habitat protection, outreach programs and sustainable livelihood-related activities. Yet, in terms of overall impact of ecotrip funds, the biggest benefit is to the local Himalayan communities.
Healthy red panda populations need to benefit the local people for conservation efforts to succeed. Thanks to RPN’s red panda-based tourism, local communities are able to flourish alongside the increasing red panda populations, so communities are supportive and actively engaged in RPN’s conservation program. Ecotourism gives local residents additional ways to make a living, and tourism-based activities, such as providing hospitality services and acting as nature guides, are the primary source of income for many Nepalese people.
Last but not least, RPN’s ecotrips benefit the ecotrippers themselves. Tawnni Jensen, a traveler on RPN’s 2019 ecotrip, described the trip saying: “I would not have traded this experience for anything! Being among the wonderful people of Nepal and the amazing diversity of the Himalayan foothills was incredible! And ten pandas! Seeing these amazing animals, and seeing signs of a growing population, was unbelievable!”
For lucky travelers like Jensen—and possibly you—a RPN ecotrip is the adventure of a lifetime! We hope you join us for an RPN ecotrip soon!
Holly Alyssa MacCormick
Writing and Communications Volunteer
Red Panda Network
For further information contact:
Terrance Fleming, Development Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
During the 12 days of an ecotrip travelers were able to see, ten red pandas in a rhododendron tree.
Well, that's not exactly how it happened—participants were actually on an Eco Zoo Trip and the pandas weren't all in one tree—but please sing along!
On the first day of the ecotrip travelers were able to see,
Nepal's capital, Kathmandu city.
Eight travelers, representing zoos and conservation groups around the world—including Auckland Zoo, Animals Asia Foundation and Hogle Zoo—joined trip leader and former red panda zookeeper, Sarah Jones, for what truly ended up being a trip of a lifetime. The group was also joined by a professor from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.
On the second day of the ecotrip travelers were able to see,
Swayambhunath temple and lots of monkeys.
On the third day of the ecotrip travelers were able to see, breathtaking views from a jeep and a plane to a house of tea.
Ecotrippers then began their long journey east to red panda habitat in the Himalayan foothills of Ilam district. This can take two days of traveling by plane and jeep, climbing a total of over 2,000 meters in elevation (up to 3,600 meters; Kathmandu is at 1,400 meters).
Their first stop was the beautiful and world-famous tea gardens of Ilam district where they enjoyed homestay amenities in a teahouse.
among protected forests and hospitality.
The group arrives in core red panda habitat and are welcomed by Choyataar Community Forest Group members!
On the fifth through tenth day of the ecotrip they were able to see,
incredible Himalayan biodiversity.
The group spent the next five days trekking through cloud forests—led by Red Panda Network (RPN) Forest Forests—in search of red panda.
During the twelve days of the ecotrip travelers were able to see, nine cubs and one mother in red panda country.
In November of 2018, ecotrippers experienced the most successful ecotrip in RPN history with 8 red panda sightings. Participants of the November 19-30, 2019 Eco Zoo Trip had ten red panda sightings; nine cubs and one red panda mother!
This is unprecedented and is a strong indicator of increasing red panda numbers and the impact our conservation programs in Nepal. An achievement we could have never reached without our wonderful supporters!
Interested in joining a Himalayan adventure to see red pandas in the wild?
Want more? Watch this short video of the November 2019 Eco Zoo Trip! >>