Students of Merak Primary School in Trashigang enter the school’s hall with smiles and rosy cheeks, as they anticipate of becoming the first junior rangers in Merak yesterday.
Coinciding with the coronation day of His Majesty The King, Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in collaboration with Merak PS organised a daylong junior ranger programme in Merak.
According to park officials, the main aim of forming the junior rangers club is to educate and encourage young local minds on biodiversity and environmental conservation with special emphasis on the endangered red panda.
Officials said the club members are expected to encourage and provide awareness to their parents and friends regarding the programme.
Inspired by a red panda conservation project, 20 students of Merak PS learned the basic information on red panda from park officials, who have conducted surveys on red pandas in the sanctuary.
During the programme, SWS officials demonstrated how to operate and set up motion-sensitive camera traps in the field for conservation and monitoring of the rare mammal. Students were also shown few videos on red panda to explain the behaviour of the animal.
Following the video clips, students were given activity books with ideas incorporated from red panda network, according to the officials.
The students also participated in drawing and colouring the red panda.
Park officials said that beginning next year, the junior rangers will participate in field activities such as forest walks, bamboo planting, giving presentations and involving in celebration of International Red Panda Day in September.
The officials said their office would look for relevant projects and funds to organise similar programmes in the highland in the future.
According to residents of Merak and Sakteng, some parts of their winter pasturelands were home to the endangered species in the SWC.
However, park officials said that the sightings of the red panda in the highlands have considerably decreased in recent years because of habitat fragmentation and degrading land due to overgrazing and other natural phenomena like landslides.
It was learnt that of the 10 parks identified in the country, seven (thirteen dzongkhags) are home to the endangered red panda. Officials said that a study on the number of red panda in the country has not been conducted yet.
Meanwhile, the 20 participants were provided T-shirts made by the Red Panda Network in Nepal and a certificate to confirm their role as junior rangers.
The programme was organised and launched by SWS with support from Charles Sturt University in Australia and the Darwin Initiative Fund in the UK.
Younten Tshedup | Trashigang