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Red panda on decline due to poaching

KISHOR BUDHATHOKI

KHANDBARI: The poaching of red panda, a rare species found in Makalu Barun National Park, continues unabated despite the government ban on hunting them.

Locals kill the creature for meat, while its hide is used to make decorative household items. According to Uttarman Kulung of Gudel-4, Solukhumbu, local farmers kill the red pandas if they enter their farms.

Poaching is rife in the adjoining areas of the national park, including Makalu, Chepuwa, Hatiya, Tamku, Bala, Num and Sisuwa of Sankhuwasabha and Bung, Chheskam and Gudel of Solukhumbu. Owing to inaction on the part of authorities concerned, there seems to be no end to poaching, said former chairman of Hatiya VDC, Wandabi Bhote.

According to Angtenji Sherpa, a scout of the national park, no action has been taken against national park employees, who too are involved in the poaching, despite reporting to senior officers. According to the law of the land, anyone found hunting the animal is charged up to Rs 50,000 fine along with 15-year imprisonment.

“The unabated poaching of the red panda has put the rare species on the verge of extinction,” added Bhote.

Locals said more than a dozen red pandas were recently killed in Gudel VDC alone. Almost 40 red pandas are reported to have been killed in the national park and as much exported to China in a year.

The East Foundation, an NGO at Sankhuwasabha, had taken the initiative to protect the animal, but to no avail. A separate section of the national park responsible for overseeing the conservation of the animals has also failed to live up to its expectations. Lakapad Kulung, in-charge of Bung-based area office of the national park, said, “The poaching is done out of our sight. If we find anyone involved in such illegal activities, we will take action.” The killing of this animal is probably the result of lack of public awareness regarding repercussions of wildlife poaching, added the in-charge. The acting chief of the national park area, Badribinod Dahal, also conceded that decreasing number of red pandas was a result of poaching.

“The security is not effective and the local administration has shown no interest,” said Dahal. Durga Kiran Rai, chairman of the buffer zone management committee of the national park, also affirmed that poaching was rife. He seemed hopeful of curbing poaching once the government launches awareness programmes.

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