PROJECT PUNDE KUNDO: COMMUNITY-BASED MONITORING OF A RED PANDA POPULATION IN EASTERN NEPAL

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Publisher Summary This chapter discusses the Punde Kundo project, a community-based monitoring of a red panda population in eastern Nepal. Project Punde Kundo provides a model for community-based conservation of landscape species. The Project Punde Kundo working site occupies an area of 8629 hectares (86.3km2) in the northern portion of the Panchthar–Ilam–Taplejung (PIT) corridor of which approximately 6680 hectares (66.8km2) is red panda habitat. This area has an estimated red panda population of 28 individuals, based on a crude relative density of one individual per 2.42km2. In order to maximize ability to collect red panda population information and directly involve local communities, red panda network hires and trains forest users from communities located within the PIT corridor to conduct long-term red panda population and habitat monitoring. Its intention is that through this process the community monitors will shift part of their perception of the forest from a source of survival to one of a natural resource having inherent aesthetic value and income potential through its preservation. Communities have also come to see their roles shift from forest users to forest guardians. This model can be used with other landscape-level species to develop a conservation ethic within local communities. Project Punde Kundo focuses on utilizing local ecological knowledge and conservation motivation to establish a community-based system of data collection, conservation education, and stewardship.