If you Google ‘Which is the cutest animal in the world?’ – The first result is the Red Panda.
I was always fascinated by this adorable fur-ball, since I started wildlife photography. This amazing animal was on my wish-list for a long time, after seeing many photographs of it on social media. Incidentally, I was working as a Naturalist in Assam on the Brahmaputra River and here I was much closer to the Himalayas than I ever could be from Mumbai, my hometown. Finally time obliged and the stars aligned and the day came when I set out for my Red Panda Expedition. It was winter of 2018, not the best time to see the elusive Red Panda as I got the news that snow storms had already been started in the Eastern Himalayas.
But that did not stop from continuing with my plan. I travelled from GUWAHATI to New JALPAIGURI by a morning train, reached there by afternoon. Then I changed several cabs to reach the base of Singhalila National Park. This is where I met my guide and the next day early morning we set out on the quest for Red Panda. After staying in home stays on the way we reached Singhalila National Park and started our trek to look for the elusive Firefox.
Red Pandas are extremely rare and their abode is the cloud forests of Himalayas. They are not easy to track down. After walking and trekking for almost 4 days and with bad weather to give us company we had lost all hope to see this beautiful animal.
But then the eagle-eyed guide of mine spotted this Male Red Panda feeding on Sargosh fruits on a cloudy morning. We rushed to the spot, carrying heavy equipment and losing all our breaths in the process. Somehow we managed to go near the tree and then I started clicking to my heart’s content. All the fatigue vanished within seconds as I saw this incredible animal for the first time in my life. My dream had come true to see the endangered Red Panda in the Wild.
Red Pandas are unique animals. They are the flagship species of one of the four bio-diversity hotspots of India – The Eastern Himalayas. These mountains sustain a diverse array of Wildlife, including many endangered species of flora and fauna. To save the Red Pandas it is very crucial to first save their habitat. Because without it they cannot survive. And this can only be done through community conservation at the grassroots level. Organizations like Red Panda Network, work towards conserving and protecting the natural habitat of Red Pandas. My vision for saving this ‘cherub of the mist’ is by saving their habitat – their home, their cloud forest .