Gangtok, May 20: Red Panda's dwindling population will soon show some improvement, official sources said here today.
The Red Panda, Sikkim's state animal, figures in the Schedule one of the Wildlife Protection Act, due to its dwindling population, both in the wild and in captivity.
If everything goes well a pair of these animals will be brought from the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, Darjeeling, under the coordinated breeding programme and will deliver cubs in a couple of months in the Himalayan Zoological Park, Blbuley, officials added.
Presently, the zoo houses four male and one female red panda.
The wildlife officials here are jubiliant over the news as a research showed that the population of these pandas, also known as cat bear for its cat-like face and bear-like body, hardly increased in captivity in around 46 zoos abroad during the last decade.
This time the cubs will not only survive but also multiply in future, Joint Director of Forest, Parks and Zoo, Gut Lepcha said.
''We also plan to exchange some of the surplus animals with other zoos and release some into the wild.
Earlier efforts to breed in captivity had succeeded only partially, he said.
State Wildlife Senior Research Officer Usha Lanchungpa said these cat bears live in temperate mixed forest of Himalaya in Nepal, Sikkim, Northern Part of Bengal and Asom, Arunachal Pradesh and in some parts of Yunnan in South China.
Although no census had been conducted anywhere in the world as yet, the species was very rare and is believed to be in the danger of extinction in the near future unless corrective measures were taken, she said.
Ms Usha said a number of factors were responsible for their dwindling population. The species started disappearing due to low fertility rate, high rate of mortality in infants and juveniles, depression due to breeding in captivity and loss of habitats due to developmental activities in the area. This forced some wildlife lovers and zoos to seek upgradation of their breeding programmes with more scientific approach for increase in their population, she said.
The research officer said the animal was in the zoo trade before it was put under the schedule of the Wild lifeprotection Act. As a result hundreds of red pandas were caught from the wild and sold to various zoos and individuals the world over. While many of the animals did not survive, the rest did not breed. Mr Lepcha said the Himalayan Zoological Park here was one of the first zoos in the country to be included in the coordinated breeding programme, involving five countries - India, Germany, Spain, Holland and US. However, the programme succeeded partially in the state due to poor infrastrcture.
Two male cubs were born in the zoo in 1999, five years after the breeding pair was brought to the zooin 1994, under the coordinated breeding programme. But they had escaped into the wild.
In 2000, two male cubs and in the subsequent year two female cubs were born in the zoo, but they died within three - four months after their birth due to diseases.
But this time ''we have constructed spacious enclosures as per the guidelines of the Central Zoological Authority(CZA) of India with suitable feeding places and nesting boxes''.
The breeding pair were sergegated from the rest and the enclosures were fumigated and disinfected.
Veterians were involved to minimise the risk of diseases, he said.
The breeding centres were located in an ideal place in natural bamboo forests with enough scope for expansion and development of infrastrcture in future, he said.
The infrastrcture here were better than Darjeeling Zoo where captive breeding of red pandas was a success. So ''we hope that the captive breeding would be a sucess here as well.'' Mr Lepcha said besides captive breeding, the zoo will soon undertake captive breeding of Blood Phesant, the state bird of Sikkim.
''We will submit a detail project report of the programme to the Union Forest and Enviroment Ministry in a couple of months and start breeding programmes after getting the green signal from the union government.'' he said.
The government is also contemplating captive breeding of snow leopards in the future, Mr Lepcha said.