The Annual Review and Planning Workshop for 2016-17 and 2017-18 was conducted on 4th and 5th August 2017 at Tashigang. A total of 30 participants participated in the workshop including herders from Merak (n=12), Gup, Gewog Administration, Merak (n=1), staff from Department of Livestock (n=1), Regional Livestock Development Centre, Khangma (n=4), Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, Phongmey (n=6), Dzongkhag Livestock Sector (n=4) and Land Record Officer (n=1), Dzongkhag Administration, Tashigang and research officer, Charles Sturt University (n=1). Here are some highlights from the meeting;
Red panda habitat and land restoration
As part of conservation and restoration of red panda habitat in the project area for 2016-17, Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in collaboration with herders, carried out rehabilitation works on one of the biggest landslides in the area at Drana. They fenced 20 hectares and planted 10,000 tree wildings, cuttings and bamboo rhizomes. A signboard installed by the main feeder road to Merak above Drana provides details of plantation area and type of tree species planted in the landslide area. The plants have started growing, however recent heavy monsoon rain has washed away an area at the head of the landslide. Construction of check dams and diversion pipes, along with repair of fencing and replanting will be required over the autumn months.
Red panda presence/absence surveys
SWS staff have carried out red panda surveys and installed several camera traps in potential red panda roosting areas based on two scat sightings on rhododendron trees (one as recently as 12 September 2017 at 3132m). However, no pictures of red pandas have emerged yet. After a mass bamboo flowering event, bamboo regrowth is only slowly coming back so it was thought that the Red Panda population might have shifted to bamboo forest elsewhere. However, during summer months, there was evidence of Red Panda across the park feeding on fruits of wild kiwi, Rosa spp, Sorbus spp, Holboellia latifolia, and Agapetes sp. Most of these wild fruit are available in project area so park staff are planning to keep the five cameras fixed with the hope of capturing a red panda (or two!). A few herders mentioned recently that they have seen red pandas at Nugteng (one day walk south-west of our project area) so a camera will be installed there also.
Summer Berries Red Panda in SWS park 2014
Pasture development plans
Formalities and procedures for leasing of government land for improved pasture development has been completed. By-laws and a management plan for improved pasture development in winter pasture areas were developed. It was agreed by all herder households in Cheabling, Sheytemi, Drana, Lurzhing and Tse-thonpo to develop 2.5 acres/household. Fencing is to be completed between October 2017 and February 2018 and soil prepared for sowing in April/May 2018. Soil samples have been sent to the National Soil Service Centre, Department of Agriculture for testing to determine input requirements. Herders will participate in a pasture study tour in November and be trained in pasture sowing and management next March.