This Is the First Video of Wild Red Pandas in Myanmar

But Chinese logging is destroying the conifer and bamboo forests the endangered animals need to survive.
Oct 29, 2014·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

It’s not good when the first time you catch a red panda on video in Myanmar the footage shows massive devastation of the animal’s habitat.

That’s what a team of biologists from Fauna and Flora International came across while studying the reclusive animal roaming the country’s high-altitude mixed bamboo and conifer forests.

But instead of traversing trees, the bushy-tailed pair of pandas is seen crawling across a rocky landslide left by Chinese loggers.

Soe Aung, a field biologist for the environmental group, said in a statement that when the team encountered the red pandas, it felt two emotions at once: “incredibly happy for the direct sighting and for obtaining this first exciting footage but terribly saddened seeing the state of their habitat and threats to the species’ survival.”

According to FFI, China’s timber companies are not only destroying the delicate alpine forest of northern Myanmar but also clearing the way for access roads that would benefit hunting and the wildlife trade that serves the Chinese market.

The red panda sighting occurred in the Imaw Bum mountain range, in the northeastern region of Myanmar’s Kachin state. Since 2009, FFI has been surveying the species throughout Myanmar's Himalayas, with Imaw Bum being somewhat of a hot spot for red panda sightings.

With fewer than 10,000 mature red pandas left in the wild, the red cat-bear, as it’s also known, is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

That makes the high concentration of red pandas in the Imaw Bum mountain range even more important to the species’ survival. Now FFI is working with the Myanmar Forest Department to designate Imaw Bum as a national park.

The government banned the export of raw logs earlier this year to slow deforestation. From 1990 to 2010, the country’s forest cover shrank from 58 percent to 47 percent. That’s a lot of missing trees that red pandas could be sleeping in.

“We hope that the national park designation combined with Myanmar’s recent raw log export ban will encourage the Chinese government to stop loggers venturing into Myanmar,” Frank Momberg, FFI’s Myanmar program director, said in a statement.