Road construction threatens the future of red pandas

(ORDO NEWS) — Red pandas are known for their striking looks and adorable demeanor. However, these cute animals may soon be in danger of extinction due to the growing human intervention in their usual habitat.

The small or red panda ( Ailurus fulgens ) is a small, cat-sized animal of the order of carnivores found in Southeast Asia, from China in the east to India and Nepal in the west.

Although the closest relatives of this animal are predatory martens and omnivorous raccoons, the red panda itself is a staunch vegetarian, eating almost exclusively bamboo shoots.

The number of these animals in nature is small , only about ten thousand individuals, and is constantly declining: the main reasons for this are deforestation and poaching for beautiful fur. Red pandas breed well in captivity, but due to their peculiar diet, it is extremely difficult to keep them.

Now it turned out that the well-being of these animals can be threatened even by the construction of new roads that literally tear their habitats to pieces. Dr. Damber Bista tracked the movements of red pandas in Nepal using GPS telemetry for 12 months and found that animals limit their movements in order to collide less with people, and this inevitably leads to the isolation of certain groups of animals from relatives.

The scientist was able to obtain such data at a distance while he was in Australia: collars with GPS trackers were put on animals in 2019, and in 2020 Dr. Bista was going to return to Nepal to install camera traps, but due to the outbreak of the pandemic coronavirus was forced to stay at home.

Fortunately, thanks to satellite tracking, he was able to observe the movements of the tagged animals while his Nepalese colleagues were doing the field work.

Road construction threatens the future of red pandas 2
Collars worn on pandas allowed the scientist, located at a distance of eight thousand kilometers, to track the movements of animals

As more and more roads are built, red pandas are forced to move around a limited area so as not to go out into the open space cleared by man. In the short term, this may lead to the fact that some animals will end up on “islands”, surrounded on all sides by cut down forest areas, will be naturally excluded from the breeding population and further reduce their already small numbers.

As measures to save the rare animal, scientists propose to reduce the anthropogenic pressure on the habitats of the red panda and ensure the continuity of forests in order to give these animals, if possible, to leave places where they experience anxiety due to the proximity to humans.

If we can’t reduce the number of roads, we can at least limit the speed of cars on them and increase the number of ecoducts where red pandas can safely cross the roadway.

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