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Distribution and habitat attributes associated with the Himalayan red panda in the westernmost distribution range, Nepal
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  • Saroj Shrestha,
  • Arjun Thapa,
  • Damber Bista,
  • Natasha Robinson,
  • Ang Sherpa,
  • Krishna Acharya,
  • Shant Jnawali,
  • Sony Lama
Saroj Shrestha
Red Panda Network
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Arjun Thapa
Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation
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Damber Bista
The University of Queensland
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Natasha Robinson
Australian National University
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Ang Sherpa
Red Panda Network
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Krishna Acharya
Ministry of Forests and Environment
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Shant Jnawali
WWF Nepal
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Sony Lama
Red Panda Network
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Abstract

The Himalayan red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is of special interest in evolutionary studies due to its taxonomic uniqueness. Globally, Nepal represents the Westernmost edge of the red panda distribution. Fewer studies of red panda have been carried out which hinders the implementation of effective conservation actions of the species. We aim to determine important habitat features influencing the distribution of red panda and recommend possible habitat corridors. We conducted an extensive field survey and analyzed red panda presence data, key food resources (bamboo), and bioclimatic variables to build a Maxent habitat model and determine habitat requirements of the red panda. Himalayan red pandas were confined between the range of 2600 m - 3,600 m, with most records between 3250 m - 3400 m on the north and west-facing slopes. The potentially suitable habitat of the red panda in Western Nepal is estimated to be about 3,222 km2 with a relative abundance of 3.34 signs/km. Important habitat attributes for red panda occurrence include aspects, canopy cover, bamboo cover, and distance to water. Combining species habitat requirements and disturbance factors (human footprint), we suggested five potential biological corridors in Western Nepal. Western Nepal has suitable habitat attributes for the red panda distributions. Ecological variables such as canopy cover, bamboo cover, distance to the water, and aspects are important attributes for red panda occurrence in Western Nepal alike Central Nepal. We suggested five potential corridors in Western Nepal; however, due to a lack of detailed knowledge on corridors and connectivity, a comprehensive field-based assessment is required to validate it scientifically. Keywords: Biological Corridor; Distribution; Habitat requirements; Red panda

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

31 Aug 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
03 Sep 2020Assigned to Editor
03 Sep 2020Submission Checks Completed
13 Sep 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned