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GPS Tracking Red Pandas

Researchers Use GPS Collars

An international team of scientists has conducted a GPS tracking collar study on red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) in eastern Nepal. This is the first time GPS collars have been used to study these elusive animals in the wild.

Paaru, one of the red pandas tracked by the study. Image credit: James Houston, Red Panda Network.

Paaru, one of the red pandas tracked by the study. Image credit: James Houston, Red Panda Network.

The red panda is the only living member of the genus Ailurus and the family Ailuridae.

The animal was once widely distributed across Eurasia but is now restricted at the southeastern and southern edges of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau within an altitude range of 2,200 to 4,800 m.

With less than 10,000 individuals left in the wild, the red panda is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“Red pandas are the only extant member of their taxonomic family, and if they were to become extinct that would be, at least taxonomically, like losing the whole cat family, from lions to domestic cats,” said Dr. Angela Glatston, Chair of the Red Panda Network Board of Directors.

The researchers studied 10 (six females and four males) red pandas using GPS telemetry and estimated their movement and space use.

They also used VHF tracking devices and camera traps to collect additional data.

“The collars are programmed to record data every two hours which will be transferred via a satellite system for one year,” said Red Panda Network researcher Damber Bista, a Ph.D. student at the University of Queensland.

“The data will help us get a better insight into their movement and space-use pattern, social behavior, and their response to disturbances.”

The study was funded by Rotterdam Zoo and conducted in the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Corridor, a belt of forest that connects protected areas in Nepal and India.

“This is a great milestone in red panda conservation,” said Man Bahadur Khadka, Director General of Nepal’s Department of Forests and Soil Conservation.

“We assure the protection and conservation of this charismatic species whose survival is mainly threatened by anthropogenic factors.”

“This is a proud moment for us to have the opportunity to fulfill one of the objectives of Nepal’s Red Panda Conservation Action Plan,” added Ang Phuri Sherpa, Red Panda Network’s Country Director for Nepal.

“This study aims to better understand how red pandas interact in human-dominated landscapes.”

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