Red panda keeper, Anneke Haworth of Auckland Zoo, visited the Red Panda Network field team in December 2014. My name is Anneke Haworth and I am a carnivore keeper at Auckland Zoo in New Zealand, working closely with our five Nepalese red pandas.
I was lucky to visit Nepal last year to further develop our relationship with RPN and to see first-hand how their work is making a difference to the endangered red panda. We helped to start building a nursery which will harvest plants that will benefit the local communities, as well as bamboo for the red pandas and other plants that will be used for reforestation efforts in the near future. It was great to see how involved the local people were and how excited they were about the development of the nursery! While we were there, we walked for about an hour down to a primary school where Sonam (RPN) and Bishal (HCF) took a class each, combining several school levels. Outside of school many of these children have the responsibility of taking their families’ livestock out for fresh grazing. With this knowledge, the kids can also make wiser decisions about where to graze their livestock, and being excited about the lesson, are likely to pass this information on to their families spreading the message further. Aside from this important work, monitoring red panda and their habitats is carried out by the ever important Forest Guardians – local people employed by RPN. The last stretch of our journey took us to Dobate, Ilam, a beautiful place perfect for those wanting to experience a comfortable and cultural Nepal, and have the amazing experience of seeing red panda in the wild. On our second day in the forest, we spent several hours exploring the transect lines monitored by the Forest Guardians and examining red panda habitat.  We found plenty of evidence of red pandas being around (scat and browsing) but the mist was settling in for the afternoon, so we decided to call it a day.
We stayed with the panda around an hour, keeping some distance so as not to disturb it too much. While in Dobate, the RPN team held the annual refresher training for the 14 forest guardians of Ilam.
Aside from our conservation work, we took time to visit some great attractions in all districts.
Overall, my experience and work here in Nepal has shown me first-hand the immediate threats to red panda and how Red Panda Network is managing these.
On behalf of Auckland Zoo I feel very proud to say we support Red Panda Network, who are focused on both red panda conservation and also the livelihoods of the people sharing the forest with these beautiful animals. This trip has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and extremely memorable, and I look forward to continuing to help grow the great relationship Auckland Zoo has with Red Panda Network. Every penny counts in our work to ensure a secure future for the red panda, and the people that depend on its home for survival. Recent CommentsEarth Day 2016 on Adopt a PandaNancy Rodriguez on Conservation Firsthand: A Look at Ecotrips with the Red Panda Networkbob_rocks on Red Panda Facts vs. For the most part the equipment is what you’d expect, seed trays and covers, tray warming mats, and fluorescent light fixtures.
Actually, they are tomatoes, Roma Hybrids actually to be specific… Yep, I have lots of pics to prove it. Believe it or not some people are still interested in growing legal (I know weed isn’t illegal everywhere and admittedly I would if I could) plants and starting from seed indoor is a cheaper way to grow. Yes, I’m looking to get licensed to grow medical marijuana so I may build this for myself.
After the paint went up in the nursery, it was time to start building the bookshelves that would eventually flank the window, and would be joined by a window seat.
Once my wallpaper was measured, I cut each of the pieces out and got to work affixing them to the back of the bookshelves. I busted out my mallet, a flat head screwdriver and my chisel and got to work prying the baseboards away from the wall gently.

With the baseboard starting to pull away from the wall, I used my drywall saw (of all things) to start cutting the baseboard.
The last thing we did was to cut an access hole through the back of one of the TV stands so that we would always have access to the outlet we would be covering up.
I know I've featured split pea soup here before, but I recently fell butt-backwards into recipe perfection and HAD to share.
For the last six weeks I have been traveling in eastern Nepal, tagging along with Sonam Tashi Lama from Red Panda Network, and RPN field partners – experiencing, and hopefully contributing to their fantastic conservation work. Since 2010, Auckland Zoo has supported Red Panda Network (RPN), through both sponsorship and staff visits. We stayed in a remote settlement, with only the necessities a rural family of the eastern hills would need. While in Tiringe, Taplejung, RPN and their field partner HCF (Himali Conservation Forum), conducted community awareness workshops designed to get the community on board with helping conserve red panda. The chairman of the community expressed hope that more nurseries could be created within other households in the area, in the near future. This too is a major threat to the red panda, as cattle will destroy forest just by walking through it, and also enjoy munching on bamboo – an extremely important part of red panda diet. These education lessons and workshops are just one of the ways RPN spreads their message to the many villages in the forest connecting the PIT (Pancthar-Ilam-Taplejung) corridor, where RPN concentrates their work. They have great knowledge of the forest and the threats to it, but also great relationships with the people so they can help to carry the conservation message and get villagers on board.
However on our walk back up to the road, a young Forest Guardian, Nim Dawa, with laser vision, helped us spot a red panda moving through a tree ahead of us. It stayed quite hidden amongst the leaves in the tree for most of the time, which led us to believe it was a young one – perhaps still gaining confidence after leaving mum. It was really great to be part of this training and see all they are taught for their hard work in the forest. Nepal is an excellent place for those wanting to experience life outside of western culture without having to spend a fortune.
The staff is so passionate about what they do and are excellent at forming good relationships with the communities to get them on their side.
This is because the plants get a head start before it’s warm enough for them to be put in the ground.
Just to clarify, I grow between 50 and 75 tomato plants per year and donate them to needy families and organizations to help people out. Fluorescent lights wouldn’t grow a very happy looking mature plant either (weed or tomatoes)since they are pretty demanding, high energy plants.
Thinking about doing this next year after bad luck in simply putting a tray on the window and hoping seeds would sprout (even with a cover and heat mat). The stuff I used is higher end, but with cheaper equipment you can easily build yourself the same type of system for 150 – 250. I used Billy bookcases and Hemmes TV stands (both from Ikea) to make up the majority of the structure. I don't really have plans for that outlet, but I figured it never hurts to have it available in the future.
The workshops inform local community members about the threats to red panda survival, so that individuals can then make more informed decisions on what they take from the forest and where they take it from. The children were intent – watching and listening to Sonam who did an excellent job of keeping 50 kids focused and excited about what he was talking about. I spent time with Forest Guardians in all three districts and was happy to see how devoted and committed they are to the job – a job which is certainly not easy.

Dobate forests are ideal panda habitat. Being able to witness firsthand how red panda live in the wild has also shown me that we are doing a really good job with what we provide for our red panda exhibit back at Auckland Zoo. I gave a class on the handling of injured animals to help equip the guardians – should they come across an injured red panda or other wild animal.
But the process involves a fair amount of labor, ensuring that the lights are turned on and off at the right times each day, and that the temperature for germination and growth, as well as humidity, hit a certain target. The Arduino is used in conjunction with a Sprout Board to add connectivity for switching the lights and warming mats.
I live in Utah and it’s not a place to grow alternative crops even if I had an interest. The bookshelves will obviously be bookshelves (duh), and the TV stands will eventually turn into the window seat. Any time there's a problem, he's like, "Let's try the reciprocating saw!" and it's almost always a disaster.
After I took this picture, we went to Hecho en Mexico and I ate a giant (and very satisfying) burrito, and was pretty much useless the rest of the day. Solar power gives villagers light at night and the ability to charge cell phones, but not much else. Auckland Zoo is proud to contribute to supporting the Forest Guardians within Taplejung and hopefully we can take this further since my visit. The eco trips to Ilam provide beautiful scenery, comfort and a glimpse of Nepalese culture and life. It’s obvious that a bit of automation would be nice, and this Arduino-based garden nursery does just that. This is just a matter of driving a relay to switch mains voltage and can take any number of forms, including this home automation project we saw the other day. Indoor yields and jump starting plants each year is absolutely an interest and having that independence is a fun and rewarding hobby. For whatever reason, Ikea had chosen to price the dark brown version $40 less than the white version. So, when he suggested it again to cut the baseboards, I finally had to sit him down (and this is a true story) and tell him, "No.
We added cabinets in a corner in our kitchen where there were none and I cut out the back for access to two outlets. This means communities such as those in Tiringe rely heavily on the forests that surround their settlements, especially for wood to light fires for cooking, warmth and many other things.
One of the things that sets this project apart is that it shows you how to go from an empty room to the bounty of plant starters seen here. I even had holes drilled in my counter-top for ease of access (way cheaper than moving those outlets up the wall). I was going to be painting everything any way, to ensure all components were the same shade of white.
I can see a light hanging on the wall or bookshelves sometime down the line - with a sweet little boy curled up on that bench with a good book.

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