Millennium Post

After successful breeding plan, pandas will be released into wild

Kolkata: The West Bengal Zoo Authority has decided to release four pandas into the wild in September this year. The decision was driven by the success of red panda breeding at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling.

Two male and two female pandas will be released at the Singalila National Park. The current captive stock of the pandas at the Himalayan zoological park is 21. The state Forest department feels that the park has sufficient pandas to release some animals in the wild.

The planned breeding of the animals at the Himalayan zoological park started in 1990. At that time, the zoo had one male and three female pandas.

In 1993, one more male was brought from Rotterdam Zoo to augment the population of the existing pandas and in June 1994, two cubs were born. The planned conservation breeding programme of the pandas gained momentum with the setting up of a new conservation centre at Topekeydara, Third Mile within the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. Pandit Ballabh Pant High Altitude Zoo, Nainital, has been recognised as the participating zoo for the conservation breeding programme. The Nainital Zoo has also reported successful breeding.

"The genetic analysis of blood and fecal samples has revealed that captive red pandas at the Himalayan zoological park, Darjeeling, is genetically vibrant and genetically sustainable," said Vinod Kumar Yadav, member secretary of West Bengal Zoo Authority.

Red Pandas are threatened by loss of habitat, large-scale hunting, trapping and trading with more than 50 per cent of its population decline reported in the last 18 years. They are at present in danger of becoming extinct in the wild and in fact have already become extinct in certain areas.

There are two protected areas having red panda population in Darjeeling —Singalila National Park and Neora Valley National Park — and another at the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary in Darjeeling. Taking a serious view of the situation, the Himalayan zoological park Park has been undertaking a dedicated approach to the conservation of the endangered Himalayan fauna.

The Gangtok Zoo has started another conservation breeding centre and has also started breeding after two animals were shifted there from the Himalayan zoological park.

A global meeting will be held at Darjeeling sometime in the last week of April when the Himalayan zoological park will highlight their global plan for breeding conservation of red pandas. Eleven countries will be participating in the meeting with representation from three states-Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh apart from Bengal. All these three states have been doing work in breeding conservation of red pandas.

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