KATHMANDU, Oct 6: With the arrest of two people in Kathmandu on Monday for illegal possession of two red panda hides, the law enforcement agencies are yet again baffled by statements given by the arrested persons regarding the actual reasons behind the poaching of the endangered animal.
Tipped off by special sources, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CIB) of Nepal Police arrested Aaryan Shrestha, 18, of Baramchi VDC and Narednra Lal Shrestha, 22, of Gumba VDC of Sindhupalchowk while trying to sell the hides for lucrative amount.
But before they were able to sell those hides to some agents in Kathmandu, they were caught by the police for the illegal job. The arrested duo informed the police that the hides were about to be sold for Rs 500,000. But the police were unable to find out the agents whom they were about to sell those hides.
“Neither we have become able to trace out the actual reasons behind the poaching of red panda nor is there any tangible research to prove that the red panda hides are that valuable in the illegal market,” said DIG Hemanta Malla, spokesperson of Nepal Police.
“We can only suspect that red panda skins are traditionally popular among Tibetan people. But we don't have any facts to prove the claim,” added DIG Malla.
Government and other international wildlife-related agencies are more focused on protection of tigers, rhinos, elephants and other animals, while the protection of red pandas has remained in the backseat, the CIB officials said.
Poaching, climate change, encroachment on their habitat and inbreeding depression among reasons have recently changed their status from 'vulnerable' to 'endangered', according to Red Panda Network, an organization that has been focused on saving wild red pandas and preserves their habitat through empowerment of local communities. The network assumes that around 2500 or fewer red pandas still live in the wild.
Poaching has become serious problem in the last few years but the government efforts are not enough to protect those animals, according to the Nepal Police spokesperson.
According to District Forest Office, Kathmandu, more than 78 red panda hides were recovered in the past years from various places in Kathmandu Valley and around 200 people are under investigation. Of them, CIB alone recovered about 39 red panda hides from 58 people, who were arrested in 28 separate operations carried out against red panda poaching.
Red panda, generally solitary in nature, are found in Nepal; north-east India including West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh; Bhutan and few parts of China and northern Myanmar.