First Junior Rangers Club Formed In Merak, Bhutan With An Emphasis On Red Panda Conservation
According to the park officials, the main aim of forming the junior rangers club is to educate and encourage the young locals on biodiversity and environmental conservation, with a special emphasis on the endangered red panda.
By Younten Tshedup | Kuensel
On 1 November, the rosy cheeked students of Merak Primary School in Trashigang entered their school hall with bright smiles. It was the day when they became the first junior rangers in Merak.
Coinciding with the coronation day of His Majesty The King, the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in collaboration with Merak Primary School, organised a daylong junior ranger programme.
Emphasis on protecting the endangered red panda
According to the park officials, the main aim of forming the junior rangers club is to educate and encourage the young locals on biodiversity and environmental conservation. There is also a special emphasis on the endangered red panda.
Inspired by the red panda conservation project, 20 students from the Merak Primary School learned basic information about the red panda from park officials. They have also conducted surveys on red pandas in the sanctuary.
Officials said that the club members are expected to share their experiences with their parents and friends about the programme.
What the students learnt at the daylong junior ranger programme
During the programme, SWS officials demonstrated to these students on how to operate and set up motion-sensitive camera traps in the field for the conservation and monitoring of the rare mammal. Students were also shown a few videos on the red panda to educate them about the behaviour of the animal.
Following the video clips, students were given activity books with ideas incorporated from the red panda network, according to the officials. The students also participated in drawing and colouring the red pandas.
The park officials said that beginning next year, the junior rangers will participate in field activities such as forest walks, bamboo planting and giving presentations. They will also be involved in the celebration of the International Red Panda Day in September.
The officials said that their office would look for relevant projects and funds to organise similar programmes in the highlands in the future.
Sightings of red pandas in the highlands have decreased considerably
According to the residents of Merak and Sakteng, some parts of their winter pasturelands were home to the endangered species in the SWC.
It was learnt that of the 10 parks identified in the country, seven (thirteen dzongkhags) are home to the endangered red panda. Officials said that a study on the number of red panda in the country has not been conducted yet.
However, park officials said that the sightings of the red panda in the highlands have decreased considerably in recent years. This is mainly caused by habitat fragmentation and degrading land due to overgrazing and other natural phenomena like landslides.
Meanwhile, the 20 participants were given T-shirts made by the Red Panda Network in Nepal and a certificate to confirm their role as junior rangers.
The programme was organised and launched by SWS with support from the Charles Stuart University in Australia and the Darwin Initiative Fund in the UK.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.